Scottish Genealogy

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Happy Birthday to...Robert Louis Stevenson

Photograph of RL Stevenson
Sometimes I remember that it is the birthday of someone famous - now that I have this blog I can remind all of you too when the person is both famous and Scottish!

Today, Robert Louis Stevenson would have been 161 years old!  Actually, he died in 1894 at the age of 44, but he packed quite a lot into his short life.

Robert Louis [Lewis] Balfour Stevenson was born at 8 Howard Place, Scotland, on 13 November 1850, to Thomas Stevenson (1818–1887), and Margaret Isabella Balfour (1829–1897). The Stevensons were a 'lighthouse' family: Robert Louis's father was a lighthouse engineer and his grandfather was the famous Robert Stevenson (famed designed and builder of lighthouses).

Although Robert started to study engineering at Edinburgh University, he soon found that his heart was not really in it, in one of his poems he wrote:

Say not of me that weakly I declined
The labours of my sires, and fled the sea,
The towers we founded and the lamps we lit,
But rather say: In the afternoon of time
A strenuous family dusted from its hands
The sand of granite, and beholding far
Along the sounding coast its pyramids
And tall memorials catch the dying sun,
Smiled well content, and to this childish task
Around the fire addressed its evening hours

As well as his well known writing career, Stevenson travelled widely and just before his death purchased a tract of about 400 acres of land on Upolu, an island in Samoa, where he lived under the name of Tusitala (Samoan for Story-teller). He died there in 1894, leaving behind a rich body of work which has inspired generations.

I found Robert Louis Stevenson through his Kidnapped and the Strange case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and later found his other novels, novellas and his poetry.  His own epigraph comes from one of my favourite collections of his poetry: Underwoods:


Under the wide and starry sky,
Dig the grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.

This be the verse you grave for me:
Happy birthday, Robert Louis Stevenson 

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Thankful Thursday - the Macdonald brothers in WWI

An act of remembrance...

Image: dan /

Today's post is a personal one in honour of three of my great uncles who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country and lost their lives long before I ever had the chance to know them.  

These were three of the five sons of my great-grandmother and great-grandfather, Christina MacCrimmon and Alexander Macdonald.  Thinking of them losing three sons in such quick succession is almost too much to bear.  

To John, Alexander and Duncan - and the countless others who have given their lives over the years - we send our heartfelt gratitude for your sacrifice.

In Memory of

1292, "A" Coy., 2nd Bn., Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders
who died age 25
on 24 April 1917
Son of Alexander and Christina Macdonald, of Corbie Hill Rd., Davidson's Mains, Midlothian.
Remembered with honour
Commemorated in perpetuity by
the Commonwealth War Graves Commission

In Memory of

S/17540, 8th Bn., Black Watch (Royal Highlanders)
who died age 23
on 19 July 1918
Son of Alexander and Christina Macdonald, of Store Buildings, Davidson's Mains, Midlothian.
Remembered with honour
Commemorated in perpetuity by
the Commonwealth War Graves Commission

In Memory of

203403, 1st/5th Bn., Highland Light Infantry
who died age 21
on 24 August 1918
Son of Alexander MacDonald and Christina MacCrimmon MacDonald, of Davidsons Mains, Edinburgh.
Remembered with honour
Commemorated in perpetuity by
the Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Sunday Supper - a trip through the archives

A chance encounter with a mention of a recipe in the catalogue of the National Records of Scotland [formerly National Archives of Scotland] got me wondering how many recipes from former days might be recorded in the archives.  

A quick look through the online catalogue for the Scottish archives at gave some intriguing examples:

Some of the 18th century recipes sound fairly reasonable (don't really fancy the boar's head or snail water myself!):

GD150/3413: Recipe to cure a boar's head   
RH15/10/18a: Recipe for making snail water 
GD16/58/5: Recipe for orange wine
RH9/17/191: Recipe for baking herrings. Taken from my Lady Glenorchy's book
GD68/2/156: Recipe for making ginger wine

By the 19th and 20th centuries, we have moved on to some quite tasty sounding offerings:

GD172/2880: Recipe for buttermilk cheese
GD113/5/106c: a recipe for raspberry vinegar
GD157/1744: Recipe for sponge cake

But I think that my two favourites have to be a couple of undated offerings that tell us more about the politics of those who wrote them than they do about their tastebuds...
GD24/5/162/27: A recipe for making a true whig
the ingredients guarentteed to make anyone 'as sound a whig as ever  beheaded a King, murdered a bishop or abjured a Lawfull Prince'

GD157/1384: An abusive recipe for making a presbyterian in two days
Description: `Take the roots of hipocrisie and ambitione ... ane handfull of the spirit of pride, two drams of the seed of disentione and discord ...'

Food for thought?

Friday, 4 November 2011

Major new project set up to study everyday life in Dumfries and Galloway

The European Ethnological Research Centre [EERC] has set up a brand new project aimed at gathering and publishing information about everyday life through the ages in Dumfries and Galloway.

This ambitious study, which is believed to be the first of its kind in the UK, aims to produce substantial publications in a variety of formats. It seeks to bring together research carried out by Dumfries and Galloway's inhabitants, academics and others sharing interests in such topics. 

The organisers say that they hope to publish the results in a variety of outputs, such as additions to their popular Flashback series and in multi-authored books, as well as having online resources associated with the study.  

They will also be holding public events, such as concerts and exhibitions, in which the results of research will be disseminated. 

Image: nuttakit /
Perhaps one of the the most interesting aspects of this study is that it is designed to be participative, with the people of Dumfries and Galloway being involved in the process.

They have set up a project blog, where you can find out more and where interested parties can contact the organisers.

It looks to be an interesting attempt to trace the history and culture of people in a particular place through the experiences of the ordinary folk who live and have lived there.