COLONSAY KINDRED No. 4, April 2015 contents:
Welcome and introduction, by Kevin Byrne (Editor and host)
Nicolas McNeill, Colonsay's first loss in WWI
The Old Photograph Albums
Ena Worthington identified? by Karen Richardson
Riasg Buidhe Village by Prof. John Sheets
Disclaimer - Note to readers and contact details
This bi-monthly newsletter is an attempt to engage with people interested in Colonsay Family History. It has a sister publication, also bi-monthly, called Colonsay History, which tries to restrict itself to general history and biography etc. (All issues are online at www.colonsayhistory.info ).
Every issue remains permanently online and is thoroughly indexed by the search engines. This means that items mentioned here can be discovered at any time by any new researcher - as time goes by it is hoped to create a "www" of Colonsay-related individuals and researchers.
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Colonsay's first loss in WWI was Nicolas McNeill, born 21 February 1891 at Lower Kilchattan, son of Donald McNeill and his wife Margaret. He had siblings Annabella, Sarah Anne, Catherine, Margaret, Gilbert and Duncan. A Gaelic scholar, at 16 yrs he followed his emigrant brother Duncan across to Canada, clerked at a bank and on 23 September 1914 enrolled in the Canadian Expeditionary Force. He served at Fletre, Armentieres and Sailly sur la Lys with all the hardship of those days. He was admitted to hospital at Merville on 29th March and died of pneumonia on 13th April. These notes are taken from the very moving account of this young man's brief career, written by Alan Davis and published in Colonsay's Fallen. R.I.P.
In every issue to date, there has been reference to Victorian photographs. The original set, created by Susan Carruthers McNeill, may be seen here . In February, the Richardson family sent details of another album; they are linked to Susan's family and to most other McNeills in Colonsay since they are descended from the marriage of Kinales McPhee and Flora McNeill. It was interesting to find that two pictures in their album were identical to two that appeared in the original album, and the Richardson family has kindly permitted the entire collection to be reproduced here.
In addition, it is reported that the collection of the late Jessie McNeill included a family that appears in Susan's album and this distinctive family is pictured below. Please get in touch if any of these photographs appear in your own family archives, or if you can identify any of the subjects.
Almost as soon as the above paragraph been written, Karen Richardson sent the following fascinating message:
“As I was going through letters I found one from Ena Worthington in 1933 that got me searching and accidentally stumbling onto family and perhaps the identity of the Aldershot girl. I'm giving you all I have found in case you wanted to pass this on to the McNeill family. The shortened version is that Hector McNeill's daughter Marion married a William Worthington and they lived in Aldershot, England. It is probably their daughter Ena Worthington in the picture. “
Remembering that this image appeared in the album from Bonaveh and also the one belonging to the descendants of Kinales MacPhee, here are the details:
* Alexander McNeill married to Margaret Smith (Hector's parents)
* Hector Roy McNeill 1822-1877 married to Mary Blue 1832-1922
*they had children:
Angus 1854-1876; Margaret 1856-1921; Ann 1859; Marion 1859 ; Christina 1864; Catherine 1864; Alexander 1866-1942 (died on Colonsay); Anne 1868-1942; Donald 1871-1890; Flora 1875-1955
*Above information taken from ancestry.com
Marion McNeill married William Worthington (born 1838 Farnham, Surrey, England). They were in Aldershot, England in 1891 census and had two children: Alick 3 and Ena 2
England Birth records. Born to Marion and William:
Alick Douglas Willie Worthington born 24 July 1887
Ena Florence Worthington born 19 November 1888
Daisy Marion Worthington born 28 February 1891
William Worthington died possibly 1894 in England, then Marion went back to Colonsay:
1901 Census Colonsay
Marion was married to Archibald Buie (34). They had children:
Hugh Buie 2 (born 25 Aug 1897) and Hector Buie 1
Step-children: Alec Worthington 13 and Daisy Worthington 8
Ena is not on the 1901 census – not sure where she was – maybe in Aldershot by herself getting her picture taken!! (It is possible that she was raised there by her paternal grandparents, or was there on a visit).
In 1913 the above family came to Canada. They settled in Quebec. The Stroyan family exchanged letters with them – one of which we still have from Ena Worthington. There are ship records where she was going back to visit her Uncle Alec McNeill at Seaview Isle of Colonsay. Ena was a nurse. Her sister Daisy also went back to visit Uncle Alec on Colonsay.
Marion (McNeil) Worthington Buie died 28 April 1932 and is buried in Mount Royal Cemetery, Montreal, Quebec. Daisy Worthington died 7 Feb 1961 and is buried in Mount Royal Cemetery, Montreal, Quebec. Ena Worthington died 8 June 1968 and is buried in Mount Royal Cemetery, Montreal, Quebec.
Alick married Nellie and in 1921 Canadian census of Quebec had children:
Douglas 9 and Etta 7 - Alick/Alec's sister Ena lived with them as well.
Hector Buie was married to Mary Alice by 1924.
Hugh Buie was in WWI; all this was discovered by Karen Richardson, who then discovered Hugh Buie – on our own War Memorial: Sergt. Hugh Buie Canadians
Fortunately, Colonsay's own military historian, Alan Davis, has an extensive entry about Hugh Buie in “Colonsay's Fallen” (still in print, see www.houseoflochar.com ). In brief, Hugh's father Archibald Buie was a shepherd, the family emigrated in September 1913 to Montreal and on 7th March 1916 he joined the 146th Battalion, having been a labourer at the Grand Trunk Railway workshop. On 25 September 1916 he embarked for England with his regiment on board SS Southland. By 5th September 1917 he was an Acting Sergeant, stationed below Vimy Ridge. He was killed on 26th October in the advance towards Passchendale.
Karen also found the photograph of a head waiter in Montreal, not positively identified, but very possibly depicting Hugh's brother, Hector Buie in the 1920s.
What an extraordinary story. How did Marion McNeill meet William Worthington? Does anybody have any further information on the Worthingtons? Is it possible that a Worthington might be able to confirm the identity of Ena Worthington in that photograph?
I am most grateful for permission to use this article by Prof. Sheets and also for an article about Oronsay, which I intend to publish in the May edition of Colonsay History - Editor.
Tiny Oronsay, separated from Colonsay at high tide, remains special – St Columba's legendary landing from Ireland, burials and memorials of MacDuffie chiefs, the standing cross and priory from late 1400s, the McNeill mortuary of 18th and 19th century lairds, and grave-site of the last McNeill laird, Major-General Sir John Carstairs McNeill. Its grave-yard holds a few tenants and their stones. A well-worn one reads “Here lies the corpse of Marg Bell spouse to Archd McAllister Innkeeper Scalasaig who died the [?] day of January 18[28 or -38?] aged 64 years.” The McAllisters, today and in memory, are associated with the abandoned fishing village Riasg Buidhe (Yellow Marsh) on Colonsay's east coast, near Port a' Bhata (Boat Harbour) and Rubha Mor (Big Point). The row of roofless cottages is visible from an Oban ferry and continues a favourite destination for day-hikers. But the ruined rooms once witnessed very personal moments written into the Colonsay record of marriages, baptisms, burials, births, and deaths. It is a complicated and intimate story of family, friends, and kin told about the life-and-death of a village in the Hebrides.
The First Household Census
On 12 June 1796, Archibald McAllister and Margaret Bell baptised son Malcolm, one of nine children baptised that first day-of-entry in the ‘Christianing' page of Colonsay's new Parish Register. Malcolm, his wife and children later left the island after the 1851 census. His older brother Coll also married, had children, but stayed, living at Dun Ghallionn (Mound of the Blizzard) next to Riasg Buidhe, according to the first household census on 6 June 1841.
Previous decennial counts only wanted parish totals. Now, England's Registrar-General supervised and paid usually schoolmasters to compile household listings of individuals into district books. Under the ‘Old Laird' John McNeill, the Colonsay and Oronsay population had expanded from ‘805' in 1801 to ‘979' in 1841; Riasg Buidhe reported 68 people in 14 households for the 1841 census. Like Colonsay, with a third of its residents under 10 years old, 10 of the 14 households in Riasg Buidhe included children under 10.
And like Colonsay, where incomers regularly came to work for John McNeill, Riasg Buidhe housed Bryan Reid from Mull, his Colonsay wife, and their six children plus Malcolm McFee and Ann Patterson, both from Jura, and their children. While a census captures the still-life of a community for a day or two, the register of baptised names hints at losses and replacements. Bryan Reid and ‘Pegy' McNeill baptised three of their children on the same day, 29 October 1832; their next child William was baptised on 13 September 1834, replaced and remembered by another ‘William' baptised on 3 May 1836 (this one in the 1841 census). Similarly, Coll McAllister and ‘Kirsty' McLugash baptised their second ‘Alexander' on 17 May 1829 and their second ‘Margrat' (or ‘Pegy') on 19 May 1833 (their only two children in the 1841 census).
Not every household displayed the nuclear structure of husband-wife-and-children. Widower John Blue lived with his son; 65 year old Hector McEachern lived alone. Not every household followed the ideal of marriage-before-mating. For example, ‘natural' son James of John and Maron McNeill was baptised on 12 April 1837, almost two years before his parents married on 16 February 1839. Rebecca Blue lived with her four illegitimate children, 3 months to 8 years old. Their father was Duncan McFadyen, who apparently did not play favourites; his older son James, who died in 1849, is described as “Son [of] Duncan McFadyen [and] an Islay woman” in the Parish Register.
Colonsay lost 15% of its population by the 1851 census, from 979 to 837 islanders; the 1840s had taken a toll. John McNeill died in 1846 with Colonsay (and Oronsay) going from one older son to another by 1847; markets for cattle and kelp plummeted, potatoes were less and less a dependable crop. By 1851, Riasg Buidhe was reduced to 57 people in 11 households because the elderly die, husbands and wives move about, or leave the island altogether. Yet, there had been arrivals into Riasg Buidhe: five Darroch brothers and sisters from Glassard (Grey Cape) near the harbour at Scalasaig (Skalli's Bay). Within a couple of years, Hugh Darroch and Margaret McAllister produced a daughter; they later married in May 1857. In the 1861 census, they and two daughters, ages 8 and 1, lived with her parents, Coll and Christian (‘Kirsty') McAllister.
Colonsay again lost people between 1851 and 1861, from 837 to 598. Riasg Buidhe held its own, with 56 people in 10 households. Still, child deaths were persistent facts of village life. A few months after Hugh and Margaret Darroch married, their daughter Flora was born in October 1857, only to die the next October, cause ‘unknown'. An occasionally registered cause of death (before a resident physician in 1897) does surface in Riasg Buidhe. Alexander McNeill and Margaret Shaw, who had moved there by 1851, lost their 9 year old son in May 1857 to ‘Scarlatina' (scarlet fever), the same culprit taking Rebecca Blue's year old grandson in June.
Sustained fishing and kinship let Riasg Buidhe balance its deaths and departures. ‘Shoemaker' Duncan McNeill, wife (from Jura) and children came from Glassard to join his brother Alexander and family. Also arrived were brothers Angus and Alexander McMillan, their wives, and combined nine children. Perhaps most encouraging was the wedding on 13 February 1868 in the parish church at Scalasaig. Rebecca Blue's son, known and registered as Neil ‘McFadyen', married Margaret Darroch, Hugh's sister, making the Blues and the McAllisters in-laws through the Darrochs.
Local stresses and strains were more evident by 1871 when Riasg Buidhe consisted of 49 residents in 9 households. Three ‘Heads of Households' (on the census) were wives whose husbands were absent from home and from Colonsay. Were Hector Reid, Alexander McMillan, and Hugh Darroch in transit, away at work, or searching for work? Hugh Darroch's family suffered through the 1870s. Daughter Margaret died in 1873, wife Margaret died in 1874, daughter Christian died in 1878, all ‘attested' by wife Margaret's brother Alexander McAllister (in Hugh's absence?). Though the three men returned home by the 1881 census, the village appeared even more abandoned with only 19 men, women, and children in 5 households. Alexander McNeill and family, his brother Duncan's widow and family, with Alexander McAllister and his family, all lived (and worked?) on the church's ‘Manse' property beyond Glassard. The three families returned to Riasg Buidhe by the 1891 census when 32 people in 9 households were counted. Colonsay had shrunk to 381 residents, more than a 60% decline from its peak in 1841.
The turn to the 20th century saw 30 people in 9 households for 1901, the king and queen visit Colonsay in 1902, and Donald Alexander Smith (ie, Lord Strathcona) purchase the island in 1904, upon the death of Sir John Carstairs McNeill. On the census night of 2 April 1911, Riasg Buidhe maintained 25 people, again in 9 households. Among their registered occupations were crofter, labourer, shoemaker, dressmaker (‘at home'), charwoman, fisherman, and retired. Kinship connected virtually everyone, with widow Margaret Darroch McFadyen close to her niece Mary Darroch and Archibald McNeill near his cousin Catherine McNeill. Riasg Buidhe continued a McAllister enclave dating from 1841 and before. Eighty year olds Alexander and Catherine McAllister lived with their son Peter. Virtually next door were son Coll, his wife, three children, and son Alexander, his wife (from Skye) and seven children.
In 1918, near the close of World War I, those in Riasg Buidhe removed to Glassard and into better cottages and less isolation. An entry, though, in the 1911 census hints at the nexus of kinship binding their lives. In June 1909, unmarried fisherman Neil Darroch unexplainably died when 44 years old (as commemorated in the Oronsay grave-yard). In August, his cousin Coll McAllister and family welcomed their newest son ‘Neil Darroch McAllister' and entered the full name in the 1911 census. From Riasg Buidhe, where life could be abrupt, the same name had constructed, one more time, a namesake, a memory, and future affections.
JV Loder 1935, Colonsay and Oronsay , Oliver and Boyd, Edinburgh; Old Parish Register, Census of 1841-1851-1861-1871-1881-1891-1901-1911, Registers of Marriage, Birth, Death, District 539/2, New Register House, Edinburgh.
JW Sheets 1984, Economic and demographic consequences of population decline: Colonsay and Jura, 1841-1891, Northern Scotland 6:13-32.
Unmarried Neil Darroch McAllister died in Colonsay, November 1947 (Colonsay Death Register, 1947/539/2/2).
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