This is a continuation of the Petrie family history from Part 1 (“Therefore, Be Ye Also Ready”)
Why the slight alteration in title, you say? Because a good portion of this article deals with misinformation of all sorts, and from many sources. Genealogists Beware! There’s a load of utter rubbish out there, and it’s not all inaccuracies in Internet information. Some published books are wrong.
My banner page for this part—Part Two of three—still shows the Petrie tomb monument in Sligo Cemetery (Ireland), but it’s a slightly longer view. This photo was sent to me by the Sligo Town corporation after they cut away the trees at my request (bless them forever).
When I was in Ireland a few years ago, the yew trees had grown up to completely…and I do mean COMPLETELY obscure all sight of the tombstone. You’d walk right by it in Sligo cemetery, and never know that there was a grave marker there.
This is the ‘BEFORE’ view of the Petrie monument…
Can you see a tombstone in the middle of that? And, incidentally, the base of the monument you see in the lower right-hand corner belongs to the neighbours. It’s not part of the Petrie monument.
When we were there we gave up looking and asked the cemetery custodian if he knew where the Petrie tomb was. He did, and he showed us. And he said that there was some law from the 16th century—Henry VIII’s time—that was still in effect, and that essentially forbade cutting back yew trees because they were needed for making long bows. (Ummm…hunh? Is there really much call for long bows these days?)
Frankly, I had to wonder whether we were being fed a load of blether in an effort to dodge a bit of maintenance work. Maybe that’s not fair, but when I inquired further by going to the town corporation, the action was taken to cut away the enveloping yew trees and expose the tombstone to view. Ask and ye shall receive! And nobody fussed about destroying the raw materials for the long bow industry.
They did a lovely job. I have to say that at first I was almost hesitant to ask for the trees to be cut back because I thought it might expose the grave marker to the elements and cause the inscription to wear away. But, as you can see in the banner image, they cut the trees back to make a natural arbor, which will continue to shelter the grave marker, while still making it accessible. I could not possibly be more delighted.
This makes a kind of analogy with research into family history. If you accept surface appearances—or what’s told to you by others–and go no further, the truth of your family history will remain obscured. Always take the extra step and verify information. Go to original sources when you can; otherwise you won’t see your true ancestry for the trees.
And, above all, do not…and I repeat…DO NOT put unverified information on the internet. Anyone who does that is doing a great disservice to succeeding generations of family genealogists. Even if you feel compelled to make a leap of faith based on clues found in your research (which is fun to do, I admit), SAY SO. People should not be misled into accepting our wild flights of fancy as fact.
In my recent internet travels in search of background information on the Petrie family drownings off Bartra Island in 1886, I came across an Irish internet site with someone’s recollection of the event.
He was all wrong.
He said that the incident happened in the ‘summer of 1884.’ No…it was July of 1886. And he said that there were four people drowned, two young men and two girls. No…there were FIVE people drowned, two young men (Alexander Petrie and Jack Wilson) and three girls (two Wilson sisters, and Ellie Petrie, Alexander’s sister). And he said that two of the people drowned were Wilsons—which confirmed for me that we were talking about the same event–but ‘No,’ again. There were three Wilsons drowned, two sisters and their brother. Then he said that the father of the Wilsons owned the salmon fishery on the Moy River. I think that he must have meant the Petries. I don’t know if the Wilsons owned a fishery, but the Petries definitely did, and they were the major players in that industry for the area.
So he was wrong, wrong, wrong. And the archivist/librarian had ‘approved’ his contribution. I was thinking, ‘How could she do that?’ And why would the contributor send in foggy memories of something that would be published on the internet and might be misconstrued as fact?
I looked for the site’s contact information, and sent them an e-mail, giving them a scanned copy of the newspaper report of the event in 1886, which provided the names of the victims. My e-mail was brief, included a cut-and-paste of the inaccurate story, and my corrections to it.
The answer I got was that their site was all about oral traditions and stories passed down, and they didn’t really care if anyone got the facts wrong. My corrections were of no interest to them.
Well, that’s a little too esoteric for me. How can people value or embrace distortions of events, even if they are posted on a site that’s all about the alterations made by the human memory on past events? I follow Sergeant Friday’s philosophy of life: ‘Just the facts, Ma’am.’ Looking at it from a researcher’s viewpoint, they might at least have added a footnote to correct the date. That way someone who wanted the newspaper details would have a fighting chance of finding them.
That aside for the moment, this section of my family history concerns, in part, the family business and its failure; the decline of the once-thriving and enormously successful Petrie fishery business of Sligo, Ballina and Limerick (Ireland), Wick (Scotland), Bay of Islands (Newfoundland), and Carleton Canada East (New Brunswick).
Below is the company letterhead…
Here’s a quick run-through of the various branches of the Petrie fishery business during the second half of the 19th century…
“Carleton Canada East” was a bit difficult to pin down, because while I know it was on the shores of the Bay of Chaleur, it’s very close to the border with Quebec, and “The Gazetteer of the World,” (London: Thomas C. Jack, 45 Ludgate Hill; Edinburgh: Grange Publishing Works, 1885) seems to put it in Quebec:
“Carleton, a post-village in Bonaventure co., Quebec, Canada, at the foot of the Tracadièche mountains, on the S. shore of the Bay of Chaleurs, 5 miles NE. of Dalhousie, New Brunswick. The bay opposite the village affords a safe refuge for shipping. Carleton has a great herring-fishery, a branch bank, and four stores. Pop. 500.”
Even while the Gazetteer says Quebec, I believe that the Petries considered themselves to be in New Brunswick—which they may well have been. ‘Carleton’ may be a different place from ‘Carleton Canada East.’
This article from The Sligo Champion newspaper of August, 1867, mentions “the bay of Shalloor, New Brunswick.” A transcript follows for better readability.
ENTERPRISE IN SLIGO
Mr. William Petrie, the proprietor of some of our largest salmon fisheries, has recently established a Fish-Curing Depot in the bay of Shalloor,* New Brunswick. The undertaking has been attended with a very considerable outlay and much close industry, but the proceeds are most likely to give an ample return to the spirited proprietor. On the 16th inst. Mr. Petrie’s brig, “The Mag,” anchored in Sligo harbour with a cargo of 2,400 barrels of well cured herrings, which shall be disposed of at prices that must be considered a boom [sic] to our neighbourhood. “The Mag” made her passage from New Brunswick to our harbour in the short time of 17 days, and returns immediately for another cargo.
*should be “Chaleur”
Another mention of the Petrie fishery on the Bay of Chaleur, New Brunswick, is below [apologies for the source not being referenced…this one got away from me, and the source will be referenced if/when I manage to find it again]:
PETRIE’S Fish Store was in Bridgefoot Street now Fish Quay at the Post Office. PETRIE wasn’t just interested in the local catch as shown in a Government report of 1869 which states that:
“A store has been opened in Sligo by Mr. Petrie for the sale of cured herrings, cod, and salmon, all imported from Port Chaleurs, in New Brunswick, where Mr. Petrie has established a regular fishing colony, consisting of Scotch coopers and curers, under the direction of his sons, and living and working in houses built by them. He purchased two vessels, one of 300, and the other of 600 tons, and these convey the freshly cured fish from New Brunswick to Sligo, where the demand for the article exceeds the supply.”
From these two pieces of information, I think we can conclude that the fishing operation at the Bay of Chaleur, New Brunswick, lasted at least a few years, possibly 1867-1870, before my great-grandfather Alexander moved on to Newfoundland to scout-out a new base for the Petrie fishery there. In any case, I believe the Bay of Chaleur operation was closed down after 1870-71.
The fact that Carleton continues to be on the letterhead logo in 1876 may have more to do with logo re-design and stationery-reprinting costs than fact. (I’m guessing.)
Below is a picture of Carleton from roughly the same time as the Petrie fishing base, 1866.
Carleton in 1866.
Image : Thomas Pwye, Canadian scenery Gaspé, gravure. Collection Musée de la Gaspésie. NAC : 99.28.395.
Whether this was ‘Carleton’ or ‘Carleton Canada East’ is open to conjecture, but in any case it shows something of the general area for the times.
The other places named on the logo are Sligo, Ballina, and Limerick in Ireland, Wick in Scotland, and Bay of Islands in Newfoundland. The banner states: “Fish Imported and Exported.”
The following map shows the locations of Ballina, Sligo, and Limerick.
This map shows Sligo in Ireland, and Wick in Scotland.
A bit of modern-day information on the Irish locations, from Wikipedia:
“Ballina is a town in north County Mayo, Ireland. It lies at the mouth of the River Moy near Killala Bay, in the Moy valley, and had a population of 10,361 in 2011. County Mayo (Irish: Contae Mhaigh Eo, meaning “Plain of the yew trees”) is located in the west of Ireland, and is part of the province of Connacht. Sligo is a coastal seaport town in County Sligo, also part of the province of Connacht, and has a present-day population of 20,000. The name Sligo derives from the Irish: Sligeach, meaning “abounding in shells”). Limerick is a city in County Limerick, and is located in the mid-western region of the Republic of Ireland, in the province of Munster. Its 2016 population (excluding the metropolitan area) was 94,192.”
Our initial focus is the last half of the 19th century, beginning around 1851, when the Petrie family emigrated from Fife, Scotland (Dundee, Newburgh, Errol and vicinity), to Sligo in County Sligo, and Ballina in County Mayo, in the north of Ireland.
What prompted the Petrie migration? Can’t know for sure, but there was a great deal of social upheaval during those years. Ireland took the biggest hit from the famine resulting from potato blight, but the highlands of Scotland were also affected–although starvation was less of an issue there–between 1846 and approximately 1856.
The famine happened towards the end of the hundred years of ‘clearances’ in the highlands, during which time rapacious landlords evicted the people of the Scottish highlands and western islands from the land and their homes, to make way for raising sheep. It seems that quite a few highland Scots emigrated to Canada during those years.
The potato famine and the clearances did not affect my Petrie ancestors directly, but all the movement of people in the mid-19th century must have had some influence on their own decision to move—and they ALL went, together. Interestingly, they moved against the flow. After all the Irish emigration FROM Ireland to America and other places in the U.K., my Scottish ancestors moved TO Ireland, a couple of years after the famine officially ended.
“The Great Famine or the Great Hunger was a period of mass starvation, disease, and emigration in Ireland between 1845 and 1849. The population of County Mayo decreased approximately 29% (388K to 274K), and County Sligo sustained a 40% decrease (180K to 128K) between 1841 and 1851.” [Wikipedia]
Hard times and food shortages in Ireland drove Irish people to emigrate. To survive in their new homelands, they perhaps had to undercut the existing labour force by accepting lower wages. That would have created pressure on the existing population, who may, in consequence, have felt driven to look for opportunities in other countries.
All that strife and struggle in Ireland generated something akin to what people suffer during wartime: deaths from illness caused by malnutrition, deaths from starvation itself, deaths from mishaps of various sorts enroute to new countries during emigration, separations of family members, friends, the break-up of communities and the social network…and why?
Here’s the culprit, the murderer of one million people, looking guilty as sin:
That terrible time was a lesson in the wisdom of diversification. There was only one type of potato grown in Ireland (and probably also Scotland)–the lumper, and it was propagated vegetatively, which means that Irish potatoes were all clones of one another. When it happened that the genetically identical lumpers were exposed to a rot caused by Phytophthora infestans, they turned to inedible slime. One in eight Irish people died of starvation in three years during the potato famine.
The effects of the lumper’s failure were felt in other countries as well, even though their economies and food supplies did not depend so strongly on the potato crop.
A large influx of immigrants will change the social landscape. Those arriving people must be accommodated and included. They need jobs and housing and community services. Existing resources for supporting the population have to be spread more thinly to cover everyone’s needs until services can be ramped-up to a more efficient level.
Meanwhile, the decrease in population in regions the emigrants have left behind might open up opportunities for others, once the source of the problem is dealt with and the remaining population stabilized. People are needed to support the local economy and provide services to the other members of that society.
I’m guessing that my ancestors must have heard of opportunities opening up in Ireland, once the country had begun to settle down after the enormous stress and upheaval of the previous six-or-so years.
The great famine of 1846–47 resulted in floods of Irish immigrants coming into the UK. According to the 1841 census, the Irish-born population of Scotland stood at 4.8%. Ten years later it increased to 7.2% as compared with 2.9% for England and Wales. Between 1841 and 1851 the Irish population of Scotland increased by 90%. Nevertheless, as the century progressed the numbers of Irish immigrants shrank to 3.7% in 1911. The census figures, however, only recorded those who were Irish-born, while children of Irish immigrants born in Scotland were classified as Scottish.
The lowly occupational status of the Irish Catholics and their willingness to work for less than minimum wage did not bode well for the Scottish working class.
Also, the Scots appear to have been well-educated for the most part, and probably opportunities for utilizing that education were limited…
In the 17th century a new factor was driving Scots away from their homes. Schools in Lowland parishes producing a literate population resulted in five universities in a country of under a million people. This created a highly educated middle class. In an underdeveloped Scottish economy, however, there was a shortage of middle-class jobs and this caused many Scots to leave for the likes of England, to several of the Baltic States and to North America. The 19th century presented new opportunities in new destinations. Scots went to Africa as missionaries, explorers and traders. In the Far East traders conducted business in the ports of China and Japan and missionaries followed suit. For the impoverished Scot, however, Australia and New Zealand were the lands of opportunity.
Emigration was perceived by trade unions and other voluntary groups as a practical solution to unemployment and economic depression. The height of emigration corresponded with years of harsh economic depression, particularly in the late 1840s and early 1850s, the mid-1880s, and the period of 1906 to 1913.
If the Scots were better educated than many other populations, they likely had a better sense of what opportunities were available throughout the world, and how to make the most of them.
While I don’t believe my Scottish ancestors were university-educated, they had skills, knowledge, ambition, and courage. They took those things to Sligo, Ireland.
There was wealth and success on a grand scale for around thirty years, and then it all went wrong.
This photo of a Petrie family home in Tonafortes (listed in the family Bible as the birthplace of some family members) is tantalizing. Those blurry, indistinct figures in the photo may be the only images I’ll ever see of my Scottish/Irish ancestors. I have no photos of them.
So, what about the failure of the fishery business? Some of that story is as blurry and indistinct as the figures in that photograph.
I’ll take a broad swipe at it, to give you a sense of what happened—or what I think happened.
In the 19th century, when my ancestors ran a business that involved shipping, they must have had cash-flow problems that could only be balanced when the ships came in. They were honourable people with every intention of squaring-up when they could, but expecting their ship to come in, and seeing it actually find its way safely back to port, were sometimes at odds with one another. And when we’re talking about ‘ships’ being lost…not ‘ship’ but ‘ships’…the financial loss could be considerable. I saw mention of ships being lost in a letter written by William Petrie (Jr.), in microfilm documents at the Newfoundland archives, but I can’t find details or the official records (yet). Newfoundland’s archivists are still indexing that body of information, and until they do, it’s needle-in-a-haystack searching, and I had to give up.
Also there seems to have been the usual fractious family interactions during the troubles–one member feeling that another is not holding up his end, or perhaps exposing the business to risks by some action or inaction (again, drawn from letters which I hope to include in Part 3). These perceptions are more likely to occur when a business has expanded beyond a single geographical area. Problems specific to foreign locales cannot always be fully appreciated by family at home base when the means of communicating are inefficient, as they were in the 19th century.
People today complain about the speed of our world, and the constant intrusion of communications into our personal time. It’s tempting to imagine that living in a 19th-century world would give us more time to relax and enjoy life (albeit a shorter life). Maybe it did, in some respects, but I have a suspicion that the slowness of communication in the 19th century was a monumental obstacle to supporting and maintaining a business, especially one that had expanded beyond the borders of one country. No one could just pick up a telephone and exchange information with someone else. It’s unimaginable to us how a business could operate efficiently when updates to conditions and circumstances could not be immediately communicated to other people.
We’ll pick up the thread from Part 1 with the letter my great-uncle William Petrie (Jr.) wrote from Sligo, Ireland, to his sister-in-law, my great-grandmother Georgina in Bay of Islands, Newfoundland, on May 10 or 18 of 1894. A point to remember is that Georgina’s letter to him left Newfoundland on March 30, 1894, and he enclosed the envelope to show her how long it took to arrive in Ireland. We know that one of the Petrie fishery ships took 17 days to cross the Atlantic from the Bay of Chaleur, New Brunswick, in 1867. Evidently the postal service needed some efficiency improvements in 1894, if letter-delivery took over a month.
To recap, Georgina had been widowed when Alexander Petrie died of ‘stomach cancer’ (an unverified cause) on July 29, 1892. His will stated that he owned some property in Sligo, Ireland, and that the property was being held in his brother Thomas’s name. There was also an insurance policy.
Georgina had continued to run The Petrie Hotel in Bay of Islands, Newfoundland, after Alexander’s death to support the family–which in early 1894 consisted of sons William (age 18), John (age 15), and daughters Ethel (age 10) and Annie (age 7). This photo is from a few years later…
Georgina had apparently initiated the correspondence with her brother-in-law, William, and while we don’t have her letter to know exactly what it contained, his response that he was ‘sorry to learn the contents of it’ tells us that there were problems. Since he returns the information that he has also had ‘a very trying time’ and that the cause of it was a debt owed to the bank, the problems Georgina has written of were likely financial.
Here’s a section of the letter…
“Your letter to hand this morning. I am sorry to learn the contents of it. & I have had a very trying time myself since my father died keeping all things going as when he died he left everything in a bad way—over £2,200 due to the National Bank Ballina & interest and he lodged Alick’s life insurance, my own, & his as security & I have not got mine as yet although my father is dead 10 years this fall.”
The writer, William (Jr.), gives us to believe that his father, William Sr., had taken a large loan (or loans) and died before repayment was made. Without wishing to doubt these words, I have to say that I am skeptical of William Sr. having made a bad business decision. He was an indefatigable powerhouse of industry and an imaginative entrepreneur–the driving force behind the Petrie family emigration from Scotland to Ireland, where, largely due to his energy, intelligence, and foresight, the family rose to their high level of prominence and great wealth. Maybe more important to his success was the fact that he was a shrewd businessman–and known for it. He was also frugal, as newspaper reports will show.
Here’s an illustration from The Sligo Champion newspaper of May 4, 1861, which was reporting on a meeting of the Sligo Corporation. I find it interesting that the newspapers published their accounts of the business at these meetings as close to verbatim as they could. A transcript follows, for easier readability…
Pursuant to a circular dated the 26th April, a meeting of the Town Council was held on Monday last, at he Town Office, for the purpose of receiving Mr. Wynne’s reply relative to the site for the Town Hall, and to appoint a coroner for the Borough.
Mr. Cherry was for coming to a decision at once, whether an increased sum would be given or not. He said–So far as I know of public opinion I think it is rather in favour of giving £1100. I met one gentleman in the street a few minutes ago and he said, “let us see that there will [be] no cavilling.”
Mr. Cherry—Mr. William Petrie, and he is a very shrewd man.
Mr. Philips—None more so (laughter).
Mr. Cherry—I think we would be acting wisely by coming to a decision to give the additional £100 provided we get the place clear. In other parts of Ireland they would make the bargain for a great deal larger sums in half the time.
I have a suspicion that the humour in this little exchange has to do with the fact that William Petrie had some financial interest in the property, but I can’t be sure at the moment. My great-great-grandfather William’s property interests have so many listings in Griffiths’ Valuations that it would take more time and energy than I’ve got to sort them out.
In addition to being shrewd, William Petrie was not reticent in establishing himself in his new country (again, immigration of the Petries to Ireland took place sometime around 1851). There was a certain amount of ‘push back’ in the early days, with some of the local people regarding these immigrant Scots as interlopers, as can be seen in this article from The Connaught Watchman, of May 18, 1853…
The article’s writer reveals his prejudice against the foreigners when he describes them as ‘invaders of our soil.’ Evidently there was some local hostility. It doesn’t surprise me that my great-great grandfather would take every opportunity of expanding his fishing operations. Whether or not he was aware of an infringement of property rights (IF there was an infringement) is another question. Given the attitude of the local people, as illustrated in the newspaper article, it might have been easier to just push boundaries rather than acquire permissions.
This next article gives further evidence of ill-feeling towards the Scottish presence in that area of Ireland—especially, perhaps, industrious and ambitious Scots like my great-great grandfather.
It’s an article from The Sligo Champion newspaper, July 1, 1854, edition. This poison-pen article (inclusive of lightly-veiled threats) was written, as I imagine, at the instigation of the upper-crust anglers who didn’t like their sport interfered with by a money-grubbing Scotsman. A transcription follows…
The Sligo Fishery
The present lessee of the Sligo Salmon Fishery, Mr. Petrie, and some gentlemen are just now in high dispute; the former refuses, as we understand, a free passage for the fish during the open season, and thereby is destroying the sport of the angler, and, as we conceive, materially injur [sic] his own interests, as the salmon are not allowed to reach their old spawning bed, at the head of Lough Gill, during the summer months. We believe the law is clearly against Mr. Petrie; and the parties who have taken the matter up, are formidable opponents from their rank, position, and thorough knowledge of the law of the matter. As Mr. Petrie is a comparative stranger, being a Scotch settler here, we would be sorry, indeed, he should be exposed to annoyance; but sportsmen do not like to have their privileges infringed upon, and always possess the perseverance and gallantry, inseperable [sic] from what is manly and fair. If, then, the anglers are resolved to accomplish their ends, the lessee will have himself to blaim, [sic] if he be put to trouble and inconvenience.
Again, the loss sustained by fishing fair, with a rod line, would be amply repaid by the care taken by those enjoying the sport, to see that poaching would not be permitted, or illegal nets used; no thorough-bred lover of the gentle art, thinks much about the value of the fish he takes. He likes the recreation, frequently as much for the beautiful scenery by which he is surrounded, as for anything else. Of a June evening, if he do not rise, be times, in the morning, it is a sweet thing to be on the water, surrounded by picturesque objects, and with just as much excitement as to make the amusement delightful. It is hard, then, and a source of vexation, when commercial avarice steps in to put down the pleasing interest of the sport, and destroy good trout and salmon fishing at the only season of the year they can be engaged; when the sun dance [sic] gladly upon the lake, and the breezy heights of the grey mountains send down just sufficient air to cool the body and brace the nerves.
How much could be done for Sligo, and how little has been done? The town is indeed dull and monotenous [sic] enough, but a few minutes’s [sic] drive, a half an hour’s walk, will bring the tourest, [sic] or the sportsman, into the midst of scenery which can scarcely be surpassed. Yet some way or other, these treasures of nature are not well known, or half enough extolled. Baths, too, could be erected at the Point, which, in time, would make that place a fashionable resort, and cast Bundoran into the shade. But, alas! We lack men of public spirit, so far as commercial enterprises go. However, the sportsmen, true to their manly instincts, are determined to hold their own, and we wish them all the success they deserve.
If Mr. Petrie be a wise man, he will “give and take” with the fair anglers—he will be no loser by it. If he persevere, in the end he will be defeated, and forced, by law, to do that which he should have done, long ago, out of courtsey [sic] if, he had the generous feelings of a sportsman.
I wonder what my great-great grandfather thought when he read that. Would he have found it as amusing as I do? Possibly not. This sort of thing could have a detrimental effect on his livelihood and his interactions with other people in the local community.
As can be seen, my great-great grandfather was being accused of interfering with the upper-class sportsman’s enjoyment of his beautiful scenery and his ‘delightful amusement.’ These “formidable opponents from their rank, position, and thorough knowledge of the law of the matter” were apparently the wrong sort of enemy to make.
And another threat follows…”As Mr. Petrie is a comparative stranger, being a Scotch settler here, we would be sorry, indeed, he should be exposed to annoyance; but sportsmen do not like to have their privileges infringed upon…”
These lovers of the gentle art of fishing, these ‘manly, fair anglers’ just might put him to ‘trouble and inconvenience,’ and he’ll have only himself to blame for it, in other words.
One might wonder what form the “trouble and inconvenience” might take against these “Scotch settlers” and also perhaps whether the perpetrators might really be “sorry indeed.”
And here’s a report of some hostile action taken against the Petrie family (below). This is from The Connaught Watchman of 1854 (which is apparently quoting from the Sligo Chronicle. Again, a transcript follows…
MALICIOUS OUTRAGE—On Thursday night, a new and valuable plough, the property of Mr. Petrie, of Tonyfortis, was wantonly broken up in a field in his farm, where it had been in use the previous day, preparing the ground for turnips. The plough was constructed on an improved principle lately patented by Mr. Gray, of Glasgow, and was only a few days in the possession of Mr. Petrie at the time of the outrage. No reason can be assigned for the commission of the offence, as Mr. Petrie, who is an enterprising Scotch farmer, gives considerable employment, and pays a higher rate of wages than is usual in the neighbourhood—Sligo Chronicle.
We can be pretty sure that some of the ill-feeling towards the Petries came from the local gentry. I’m not sure where the ‘malicious outrage’ came from. My first thought was that it would be someone reacting to the ‘poison pen’ newspaper article, but the malicious outrage was reported in the newspaper on June 28, 1854, and the poison pen article was published July 1, 1854. The two are close in time, but reverse chronology to supporting the outrage being provoked by the article. Seems unlikely that ‘Sir’-This and ‘The Right Honourable’-That would have hired thugs to damage Petrie property—but who knows.
Notice in the following articles that William Petrie successfully appealed a conviction (albeit ‘without costs’), and that the respondents in this action were the Right Hon. John Wynne, and Sir Robert Gore Booth (a Baronet). Evidently, my great-great grandfather fought back, and against the odds. I would expect that the local bigwigs, who possessed status, money, property and influence, would have received a certain amount of preferential treatment by the judicial system, especially against a Scottish interloper.
This first article was published in The Connaught Watchman of October 24, 1855…
Notice of the success of William Petrie’s appeal was published in The Sligo Champion of October 27, 1855…
With this victory, on appeal, it might be safe to say that his opponents became aware that William Petrie was not going to scuttle off, tail between his legs, and that they could expect him to give as good as he got, even after losing the previous legal battle.
That these opponents of William Petrie’s were influential people can be seen in this article from the Sligo Champion, which names them (Sir Robert Gore Booth and the Right Hon. John Wynne) to the grand jury in Sligo a couple of years later…
This information published in John C. McTernan’s In Sligo Long Ago gives us an idea of their wealth:
“Sir Robert Gore-Booth, Lissadell:
On the outbreak of the Famine he employed 200 men at 1/- a day, and as the situation worsened every able-bodied tenant on his extensive properties in North Sligo and Ballmote was profitably occupied.”
“John Wynne, Hazelwood:
One of the most extensive landlords in the County, who was Chairman of both the Sligo Union and the local Relief Committee…” He expended £1,000 under the Land Improvement Act in the electoral divisions of Drumcliffe and Calry; paid out £1,000 a year to labourers on his estate and, in certain instances, gave assistance to emigrant families.”
[In Sligo Long Ago, by John C. McTernan, Colour Books Ltd., Dublin, 1998, p. 297]
These men were likely the ‘manly, fair anglers’ from the poison-pen article. That Gore-Booth was a sportsman is stated here in a reminiscence by someone who knew Gore-Booth:
“I always loved outdoor sports and in Grange I devoted every spare hour, and I had plenty of time for shooting, fishing and hunting. The great man of the district, Sir Robert Gore-Booth of Lissadell House, kept a pack of Harriers and a fine house always open to his friends in unbounded hospitality.” [In Sligo Long Ago, by John C. McTernan, p. 319.]
Bad enough trying to make a fresh start in a new country without getting up the noses of these two men, but I suspect that it couldn’t be helped.
In any case, winning that appeal against them may have signalled the beginning of the end of open hostility towards the Petries in Ireland.
This next article will show that my great-great grandfather was making inroads into becoming one of the participants in municipal matters. He began to gain influence and substantial reputation–and perhaps, in so doing, became less of a target for the powerful people of the region. This next article is from The Connaught Watchman of September 8, 1858…
I’m sure my great-great grandfather knew that time spent building alliances would be time well spent.
I almost laughed at the article that follows. My great-great grandfather opposed a resolution that the Water Bailiff’s salary should be doubled, and said it should continue at the present rate, forcing a vote on the issue. He lost, and the higher salary won. He would have known the nature of the water bailiff’s work, and if it wasn’t worth that large an increase in pay, then it probably wasn’t.
Article from The Sligo Champion, Nov 19, 1864, meeting to appoint Water Bailiffs. A transcription follows…
APPOINTMENT OF WATER BAILIFFS
On Monday last at twelve o’clock, the Fishery Conservators met in the Grand Jury Room, for the purpose of appointing water bailiffs for the several tidal divisions.
The following gentlemen were present :–Colonel Whyte, (in the chair); the Right Hon. J. Wynne, Captains King, Lewis Jones, Lumsden, Crofton, Messrs. W. Phibbs, C. L’Estrange, T. Wood, B. Kerrigan, Heber, T. Palmer, Shaw, T. Smyth, Balfour, Byrne, Williams, and Petrie.
[Note that my great-great grandfather’s old adversary, the Right Hon. J. Wynne, is on the board of conservators with him at this point in time.]
The Chairman said that they were met for the purpose of appointing water bailiffs, and he would hear what any gentleman had to say on the subject.
Mr. Petrie said that the sum on hand for the payment of water bailiffs in each electoral division, was only £30.
The Chairman said that the head water bailiff for the Sligo electoral division should be an efficient man, and he (the Chairman) would therefore propose that his salary be fixed at £10 a year.
Mr. Petrie said that as the late head water bailiff for Sligo had only £5 as the head water bailiff would only be engaged during the closed season, a few months of the year, and as their lands(?) were limited, he would propose that the salary be fixed at £5 a year.
Mr. Wynne proposed and Mr. Palmer seconded the resolution that the salary should be £10.
Mr. Petrie called for a poll on the question. He would more that the salary of the head water bailiff be only £5 a year.
The meeting then divided, when there appeared,
For Mr. Wynne’s resolution—Messrs. Wynne, Phibbs, Heber, Palmer, Shaw, Byrne, L’Estrange, Captains Jones, Lumsden, ad the chairman—10.
For the amendment—Messrs. Petrie, T. Wood, T. Smyth, B Kerrigan, and Balfour—5.
The resolution was then declared carried.
And before we condemn my great-great grandfather for being a tightwad, consider what happened in the second part of the meeting, as this same article (1864) continues…
The Chairman then proposed that a person named Michael Burns be appointed to the position.
A man named Brereton, late head water bailiff, here said, that Michael Burns was convicted on several occasions of selling, “spent” fish, and that he was a poacher.
A young man, whose name we afterwards learned to be Mr. Michael Regan, residing at Drumcliffe, here addressed the chairman from the gallery, and said—I pay a license for fishing in the Drumcliffe river, and I have never benefitted by it, as the fish are all killed in close time after spawning, by the very men whom you appoint to preserve them. I know myself that Burns has sold spent fish.
Here several men in the gallery were speaking together, and we understood them to be corroborating the testimony of Mr. Regan.
Chairman—As to any charge coming from Brereton, I would not rely much upon it, as he himself never attended properly to his duties.
Mr. Phibbs—But he says it is on record against him.
Mr. Balfour—The fact of his being a practical poacher ought to be a recommendation (laughter).
After some conversation, Burns was appointed, and after appointing some under bailiffs, and disposing of some routine business, the meeting separated.
I think we need to consider the personalities involved, and that there might be things cooking in the background to which we are not a party. Seems funny that they would appoint a disreputable character to uphold and enforce the fishery laws. It takes a thief to catch a thief?
They doubled the water bailiff’s salary (as we saw, my great-great-grandfather opposed this, and was defeated), and in the second half of the meeting they appointed a man who was a poacher convicted of selling spent fish–in spite of opposition from the gallery, the record of the man’s conviction, and the statement from a former water bailiff. I wonder that my great-great grandfather did not speak up again. I can tell you that he brought many petty court cases against individuals contravening the fishery rules after his ‘retirement’ in the early 1880’s; some of which you will see towards the end of this article. Perhaps he thought that one defeat on the day was enough–or maybe he’d figured out the game and knew he was out-numbered.
The following is a record of another ‘day in the life’ of my great-great grandfather. (How fortunate that these newspapers tried to record as closely to verbatim what went on in meetings and court cases involving issues of a public nature!)
This next article is from June 30, 1866, The Sligo Champion newspaper, in which my great-great grandfather was asked to give a deposition, and answer questions in a court case to resolve fishery issues. A transcription of a section from the body of the article follows.
A little comment before you read it…I like it that my great-great grandfather came to the defense of the clerk, who likely could not be expected to know what fish, if any, were in the river. The clerk’s job was probably office work–to record things determined or decided by others. (I think the Commissioner was an ass.)
Mr. W. Petrie was the first witness examined, and deposed that he had never seen any salmon in the river.
Mr. Thomas Russell was examined, and, in answer to the Commissioners, deposed that he is the clerk of the Conservators for the district; there is no water bailiff for the river at present’ there is one at Drumcliffe, but not so low down as Grange; was clerk at the time the water bailiff was discontinued, about three years ago; never fished in this river; never knew salmon caught in it to his knowledge; there was no salmon in it at the time there was a water bailiff, don’t know if it is a salmon river or not.
Commissioner—It is your business to know and not to allow the funds of the conservators to be squandered.
Mr. Petrie—He is only the clerk.
Commissioner—No matter. He is not paid merely to sit in his office. It was his duty to look after these things. Did you ever hear of salmon being seen in that river?
Witness—No; but I did that large trout were.
Who was the water bailiff that you knew?
Was there not a man named Kilmartan? Not that I knew of.
Do you recollect Kilmartan? No. There might be private bailiffs there and I not know it.
Commissioner—I would be glad you would get your books and not be trusting to your memory which I must say is very bad.
Several witnesses were called and did not appear.
Commissioner—It seems to me that when the commissioners come down to hold an investigation all the necessary witnesses think it their duty to keep out of the way.
Mr. Petrie thought that Grange river had been entered into before and that it would not—–
Commissioner—Can people read. The notice was about all the Sligo rivers.
Mr. Brian Kerrigan was examined by the Commissioner and stated that he knew the river in question since he was a boy; never heard of salmon being killed in it, although he lived three miles from it; often heard of trout being caught there.
Commissioner—What size trout? About 4lbs weight.
Whose is the property? Lady Palmerston’s, I believe.
Commissioner—Are there many salmon killed in the tidal part? Not many.
Commissioner—Thank you, very much, Mr. Kerrigan. Are there any other rivers in this district to be defined?
Mr. Petrie—There is one at Dromore West in which Captain King is interested. He was here a few minutes ago.
Mr. Petrie was examined by the commissioner and deposed—There are no salmon caught unless by poaching; I don’t think the tide goes into the river.
Commissioner—Does any other gentleman know of any river in this district that is not defined? No answer.
Commissioner—Now, I will take into consideration Colonel Whyte’s application to remove a quantity of gravel which forms an obstruction to the mouth of Drumcliffe River. Is there any opposition?
Rev. Mr. Crawford objected on account of certain green banks attached to the glebe, which might be interfered with. Mr. B. Kerrigan on account of a ford used by certain tenants, over whom he was agent. Mr. Petrie would not oppose if a pool used for spawning were not interfered with.
These early years of building the fishery business were important, and I’m sure my great-great grandfather was aware that the more political influence he had, the better his prospects would be. As he began to acquire ships and expand his market, he must have realized that he needed to be personally involved with the harbour authority.
This next article is from The Sligo Champion, January 30, 1869. (If you need to see a section of the blurry article, I’ll insert it here…but I’m not sure it would add anything. I’ve been trying to include the articles to show you snippets of documentation as backup to the transcriptions.)
ELECTION OF TOWN AND HARBOUR COMMISSIONER
The Major presided in the Crown Court on Wednesday last, at twelve o’clock, for the election of a Town and Harbour Commissioner in room of R. D. Robinson, Esq., who resigned.
Mr. William Petrie was the only candidate for the office.
At the expiration of ten minutes, the Major declared Mr. Petrie duly elected by three votes, without opposition.
Mr. Petrie expressed his thanks, not only to the gentlemen who came forward to support him, but to those who promised him their support if required. He would do all that lay in his power to benefit Sligo and its harbour, and hoped to see the day when they would have a good harbour and river.
The proceedings then terminated.
It seems that 1869 marks his official entry into municipal life, although he had been active previously. The elevation to Town and Harbour Commissioner put him in a position where he would be much less likely to be treated rudely by a fishery commissioner, as he was in 1866 (when he came to the defense of the clerk).
While, as we’ve seen, my great-great-grandfather William was pretty much appointed to be a Town and Harbour Commissioner in January of 1869 (a rubber-stamp election), the rules changed that year.
As this next article from The Sligo Champion of November 20, 1869, tells us, there was a move to make the selection of commissioners a little more democratic. One can but hope that such actions as appointing poachers to be water bailiffs, in spite of heavy opposition, would be less likely to happen if all boards of commissioners were held to account by voters…
ELECTION OF HARBOUR COMMISSIONERS
The election of Harbour Commissioners, under the “Sligo Borough Improvement Act, 1869,” took place on Saturday last, at the Courthouse, under the presidency of the Mayor. The old body, now extinct, were elected for life by a constituency of £20 householders. By the new act, however, a salutary change is effected. Instead of electing men once and for life—thereby placing them in a position in which no further authority can be exercised over them, and in which they can, with impunity, disregard the feelings and wishes of those whom they represent—the electors henceforward will have the power and the right to choose their representatives in the Harbour Board triennially. By the new act the constituency is also changed. Instead of £20 householders, the £12 householders have a right to select eight representatives, the other eight to be chosen by traders paying a certain amount of harbour dues. The full board will consist of the sixteen Commissioners thus elected, two members of the Corporation, appointed by the body, and the Mayor for the time being.
The following is the result of the election:–
Representatives of Traders—J. McGowan, sq., 52 votes; Patrick Keighton, Esq., J.P., 52; Henry Lyons, Esq., J.P., 52; James O’Connor, Esq., 52; Wm. Middleton, Esq., J.P., 52; Harper Campbell, Esq., 52; Alexander Sim, Esq., Collooney 49; William Petrie, Esq., 51.
Representatives of householders—Simon Cullen, Esq., 32 votes; Wm. Pollexfen, Esq., 32; Martin W. Phillips., Esq., 29; Thomas H. Williams, Esq., J.P., 30; Daniel Magill, Esq., 29; Henry Gorman, Esq., 30; Robert Crawford, Esq., 30; and Charles Anderson, Esq., J.P., 30.
In this next article from The Sligo Champion the following year (November 26, 1870), a report on the Harbour Board Commission meeting, my great-great-grandfather William Petrie participated in the discussion about costs. A section is transcribed below the article header…
Mr. Middleton’s Bill
Mayor—Here is an account from Mr. Middleton for £250. It was ordered that piles should be put down in front of the quay. Some of them were put down, and some of them are lying useless on the quay.
Mr. Petrie asked Mr. Simm to look over the account, as he (Mr. Simm) knew something about pitch and oakum. The account contained as much of these articles as would do the British navy (laughter).
The Secretary said the account was up to the time that the harbour accounts were audited. The items were brought over by the auditors as a balance due to Mr. Middleton
Mr. Petrie—That will not make the waste a bit the less.
The Secretary said the harbour master would not have given an order for any of the articles if it was not required, and there was no overcharge in the account.
Mr. Petrie—What I mean to say is that there have been too much got.
Chairman—All these things are vouched for, and there has been nothing got that has not been passed by this board. There is a requisition sent in here and signed by the board before the goods are got.
Mr. Petrie—I never was aware of that before. I did not know it until this minute.
Mr. Simm—If these are contract prices and you got the articles there can be no disputing the account.
Mr. Petrie—Oh, I don’t dispute it.
Chairman—Some time ago, Captain Barret got such materials as he considered necessary. It was then ordered that there should a requisition book got to be signed by the board for such things as were required.
Mr. Petrie—I, for one, never heard of it.
Chairman—I think myself that all these things are far better managed by a committee than by the general body. It is exceedingly cumbrous to have these things before the board, and a great many members of the board knew nothing about them.
Mr. Petrie—What are our expenses to-day, Mr. Monds?
Mr. Monds (Secretary)– £400.
Mr. Petrie—The current expenses of the harbour?
Secretary—Last week the expenses were £19 6s 2 ½ d, and this week they are £23 1s 11d.
I’m looking at my great-great grandfather’s contributions to the Harbour Board meeting, and thinking again that he is a forthright and frugal man. ‘Frugality’ is often touted to be an attribute of the Scottish, and I think we can see that in action here. He saw wasteful extravagance, and challenged it.
The foregoing articles should give you some idea of his level of involvement in the fishery, and in municipal matters. (I have more evidence, if you need it!)
But he was also involved with farming, land reclamation and real estate. I am amazed at how many things occupied his attention. He was not just an entrepreneur, but an innovator—developing better ways of doing things.
This write-up is from John C. McTernan’s A Sligo Miscellany [Avena Publications, Sligo, 2000, p. 351]:
“Petrie, William (c. 1814-1884), entrepreneur and ‘Scotch Agriculturalist’, a native of Perthshire, settled in Sligo in the immediate aftermath of the Famine. A man of great natural ability and boundless energy, he prospered at everything he took into hands and engaged himself in many branches of business, including the ownership of trading vessels and the builder of a number of houses in Wine Street together offices and stores. In 1851 he leased the Sligo salmon fishery from Captain Martin and developed it into a viable commercial undertaking.
Once described as a ‘Scotch Agriculturalist’, he acquired a lease of Townafortis farm at Carraroe and laid out and successfully cultivated the rough pasture in accordance with the principles of high Scotch farming. He subsequently leased 120 acres of ‘slab-land’ at the 8th milestone at Beltra, reclaimed, drained and sub-soiled it before selling, at a considerable profit, to Captain Olpherts. He later took a lease of Colonel Gore’s lands at Rosserk, Ballina, which he also successfully reclaimed. Other farms and fisheries in both Sligo and Mayo, including the Moy Fishery, came into his possession, and these he successfully and profitably managed and in the process amassed a large fortune.
Despite his many and varied commercial undertakings, he found time to engage in public affairs and sat on both the Town Council and the Harbour Board. He died suddenly at Rosserk in September, 1884, and his remains were taken back for burial in Sligo cemetery.”
I believe they’ve gotten his birth year wrong; it should be 1819.
Wine Street was a main commercial street, perhaps THE main commercial street in Sligo at the time.
The following is a section of Griffiths Valuation that shows a land lease by William Petrie. The major landowners were the wealthy, established people, often with aristocratic connections; everyone else leased the land from them. I think that this was fairly standard in Scotland and Ireland…and maybe England as well. This made the ‘clearances’ of Scotland’s highlands possible. The people working the land did not own it, and could be evicted at will by the wealthy landowners.
The primary valuation of Ireland or Griffith’s Valuation – carried out between 1848 and 1864 to determine liability to pay the Poor rate (for the support of the poor and destitute within each Poor Law Union) – provides detailed information on where people lived in mid-nineteenth century Ireland and the property they possessed. [https://www.nli.ie/en/griffiths-valuation.aspx]
This is the property reference for the Petrie’s Tonafortes house pictured earlier, which we can see included 66 acres–far larger than the other properties here listed…
There were too many listings of William Petrie’s land and real estate holdings to show here. Let’s just say that he was a busy, busy man. Quite a few of his land holdings were for agricultural purposes, although some may be associated with the fishery.
In any event, my great-great grandfather worked hard to establish himself in Ireland after emigrating there from Scotland, and after a few years was no longer the renegade Scottish trespasser he was once considered. Although he might initially have interfered with the enjoyment of sport fishing by the upper-class Irish in the area–and perhaps they tried, unsuccessfully, to oust him–by the late 1860’s, he is sitting on various municipal boards and committees, elbow-to-elbow with those same people.
And on the home front, by 1861 his and Elizabeth’s family is complete with the birth of Jessie, their 10th and last child.
William’s mother, Jane (née Thomson or Thompson) Petrie died the previous year, in 1860. His father, Peter, had died in Scotland in 1844, and was buried in Creich churchyard in Fife. Jane was buried in Killanley graveyard, near Ballina, Ireland.
William’s sister, Margaret Dow (three years younger than William), died in 1863, at age 42. Her youngest child would have been four years old at the time of his mother’s death. William’s other sister, Christian (Christina) Bruce, seven years younger than William, died in 1869, at age 43. Her youngest child would have been five years old at the time of her death. I don’t have a cause of death for either Margaret or Christian.
So sad that their children were left without a mother at such a young age. What was the cause, we wonder? Given their nieces’ bad luck with childbirth, the thought occurs that they might have had a child late in their child-bearing years, and didn’t survive. After all, the two sisters would have had children of four years old (Margaret) and five years old (Christian/Christina) at the time of their deaths, so it’s not beyond the realm of possibility.
William’s brother, Alexander, is alive and well in the 1860’s and 1870’s, as is his wife, Margaret Lyell. Alexander would turn out to be the longest-lived of the entire family, dying at around 97 years of age, in 1921.
The mysterious Elizabeth, youngest of William’s siblings, whose existence I cannot verify (I have nothing on her, whatsoever, except other family genealogists’ mention of her) I cannot account for. My inclination is to leave her off the record, since no one seems to have any backup information. However…there are indications of an important ‘Elizabeth’ in the family. William’s sister Margaret named a daughter ‘Elizabeth’. His sister Christian named her three daughters ‘Jane’ (for her mother), ‘Margaret’ for her older sister, and ‘Eliza Jane’–also for the mysterious younger sister, Elizabeth? Perhaps it’s just ‘one of those things’ that I can find no record of her. Elizabeth was supposedly born in 1827, so would have been age 14 at the time of the 1841 Scottish census. Since her sister Christian was born just the year before, and WAS recorded in the census as living at home with her parents in 1841, one has to think that Elizabeth should also have been there. But the census-taker gives no evidence of that.
While William’s brother, Alexander (of Carrowcarden), lived to age 97, that long life included some tremendous highs and lows.
Alexander’s son, Charles, (my great-grandfather Alexander’s first cousin) went to live in Liverpool. I believe he was to act as the family’s fishery agent in England, and he became established to the extent that he became Lord Mayor of Liverpool in 1901. He was knighted shortly thereafter.
My great-grandfather Alexander also went forth to establish a branch of the Petrie fishery, but he went to North America–Bay of Chaleur, and then Newfoundland, rather than Liverpool. There were no ‘Lord Mayor’ titles nor knighthoods on offer in North America, or my great-grandfather Alexander would have been in line for something, I think–he being a personable man.
The following information on the Petrie baronetcy is taken from Wikipedia:
The Petrie Baronetcy, of Carrowcarden, Castleconnor, in the Barony of Tireragh in the County of Sligo, is a title in the Baronetage of the United Kingdom. It was created on 20 June 1918 for Sir Charles Petrie, Lord Mayor of Liverpool from 1901 to 1902. The third Baronet was a well-known historian. The fifth Baronet is a prominent diplomat and served as British Ambassador to Belgium from 1985 to 1989.
Petrie baronets, of Carrowcarden (1918)
• Sir Charles Petrie, 1st Baronet (1853–1920)
• Sir Edward Lindsay Haddon Petrie, 2nd Baronet (1881–1927)
• Sir Charles Alexander Petrie, 3rd Baronet (1895–1977)
• Sir (Charles) Richard Borthwick Petrie, 4th Baronet (1921–1988)
• Sir Peter Charles Petrie, 5th Baronet (born 1932)
This section comes from thepeerage.com:
Sir Charles Petrie, 1st Baronet (1853 – 9 July 1920) was a Scottish businessman and local politician, Lord Mayor of Liverpool in 1901–2.
• Petrie was born near Newburgh, Fife, the son of Alexander Petrie of Carrowcarden, and went into the family fishery business; from 1855 his father was based in Sligo, Ireland, with a fishery on the River Moy, which Petrie joined after education at Wesley College, Dublin. In 1876 he set up on his own in Manchester, subsequently moving to Liverpool.
• Petrie had salmon fisheries in Scotland and Ireland, and oyster fisheries in Ireland, at Fleetwood, and in Essex. He was leader of the Liverpool Conservatives, knighted in 1903 after his term as Lord Mayor, and created a baronet in 1918. He was a Deputy Lieutenant of Lancashire.
He held the office of Justice of the Peace (J.P.) for Liverpool.
He held the office of Deputy Lieutenant (D.L.) of Lancashire.
He held the office of Alderman of Liverpool.
He held the office of Lord Mayor of Liverpool between 1901 and 1902.
He was invested as a Knight Bachelor in 1903.
He was a member of the West Lancashire Territorial Forces Association.
He was president of the Liverpool Constitutional Association.
He was created 1st Baronet Petrie, of Carrowcarden, Castleconnor, Tieragh, co. Sligo [U.K.] on 20 June 1918.
Sir Charles Petrie, 1st Baronet, died July 8, 1920. This is his obituary, from the July 9, 1920, edition of the Edinburgh Evening News:
I don’t know much about the Scottish fisheries on the Tay, or the oyster fisheries in Essex, but I do know that the father who out-lived him–my great-great uncle Alexander of Carrowcarden, who died eight months after him, on March 19, 1921–was not living in Fifeshire. He had been living in Ireland since the 1850’s…some seventy years.
Also, if the writer of this article is correct about Sir Charles’s grandfather and great-grandfather being owners of extensive salmon fisheries on the river Tay, he knows something I don’t! (This is definitely wrong.) Sir Charles’s grandfather (my great-great-great grandfather) was Peter Petrie, whose occupation on the 1841 Scottish census was “Agricultural Labourer.” I don’t have confirmation of who Sir Charles’s great-grandfather was. His grandfather Peter’s parentage is beyond my ability to discover at the moment, largely because of his “Foreign” birth (he was born outside of England, Scotland and Ireland). I may be looking in the Caribbean for it, next. It’s possible that Peter was the son of George Petrie, as reported, but George was not married to a Margaret MacDonald. (George wasn’t married to anyone.)
It’s bad enough looking for a birth record for someone born around 1796 when you KNOW what country he was born in. If you DON’T know that, it’s a monumental problem.
Where did the newspaper’s misinformation come from? (I do realize that they don’t always need an excuse for publishing nonsense.) It’s possible, however, that Sir Charles may have embellished his ancestry to maintain his position in society, where pedigree is important. A grandfather who was an agricultural labourer at a collective farming operation (Ballinbreich) on the shores of the Tay would not impress the aristocrats with whom Sir Charles associated.
The following is a photo from The Liverpool Echo newspaper of 1917. Sir Charles is pictured at centre (he was knighted by this time, but didn’t become a baronet until the following year), and the others in the photo are: Lady Derby, Lady Victoria Primrose, Lady Sybil Cadogan, Sir A. Salvidge, Major Oliver Stanley (behind Sir Charles):
This (below) was from the July 9, 1920, edition of the Dundee Courier of Angus, Scotland…
… DEATH OF PROMINENT SCOT. A prominent Scotsman died yesterday at Liverpool in the person of Sir Charles Petrie, Bart., ex Lord Mayor of Liverpool and Deputy-Lieutenant Lancashire. Sir Charles who was 67, was born near Newburgh, Fife. His father, grandfather …
It’s a bit of a stretch to call Sir Charles a ‘prominent Scot’ when he was born in Scotland in 1852 or 1853, and went to live in Ireland as a toddler. He lived in England for most of his life. But perhaps ‘once a Scot always a Scot’?
And speaking of obituaries, I wanted to see what else was printed about Sir Charles, 1st baronet, in the newspapers. He was given mention in not only the Scottish and English papers, but also the Irish. An obituary in the Weekly Freeman’s Journal of Ireland, July 17, 1920, is below.
There was no heading to this blurb, it just ran together with some other things, and I think it’s safe to say that this writer had a rather narrow focus and pronounced partisan interests. Sir Charles worked in the municipal government of a major city and commercial centre in England, and his job was to serve that community–not “the claims of the majority of the Irish people.” Granted that there was a large influx of immigrants from Ireland to Liverpool, especially during the mid-19th century (potato-famine times), but I don’t think this writer is talking about that. He’s talking about ‘the majority of the Irish people’ and that was not Sir Charles Petrie’s focus, understandably.
Then there were a couple of obituaries in England that were of note (strangely, I can’t find anything for Liverpool). These are quite striking for the way the two different newspapers handled the death notice. The first one was factual and respectful, and the second was, well…not.
Here’s the first (factual and respectful), from the Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer of July 9, 1920..
As you can see, the article gives an account of his public service and honours, and says, “he was a most able leader, whose labours yielded splendid results, and by the death of Sir Charles, Liverpool has lost one of her most honoured and valued citizens.”
Very nice…and very respectful.
The one below was written up in the gossip column of the Leeds Mercury, July 10, 1920, edition, by a rather snide columnist by the name of Paul Pry. Maybe that was a ‘nom de plume’ since ‘Pry’ is a little too apt for a gossip columnist. A transcription is below…
Sir Charles Petrie, Fishmonger,
The death of Sir Charles Petrie, a former Lord Mayor of Liverpool, removed a noteworthy titled shopkeeper from the list. Sir Charles was a fishmonger, and for many years had large salmon fisheries in Scotland and Ireland, as well as extensive oyster beds.
I had to chuckle at that. Sir Charles Petrie, Shopkeeper? Fishmonger? Well, I guess that’s what happens when the editor of a newspaper assigns the obituary notices to a Gossipmonger.
Sir Charles’s second son, the third baronet (also “Sir Charles”), was a historian, and the writer of many books.
I found this little exercise in misinformation on the internet. It concerns Sir Charles Petrie’s, (the historian’s), background and career…
As a consequence of this background, Petrie, while he did go to Oxford, was separated from most of his fellow Oxford students by his creed and his city of origin. This separation marked his whole life. For all his conviviality of temperament, he had what was very much a Latin outlook, a European outlook, retaining little patience for English parochialism. It was not at all that he wore his Catholicism on his sleeve. Indeed he seldom discussed religion overtly in any context. (When he helped establish the Military History Society of Ireland, he insisted on the complete avoidance of sectarian disputes; to this end, he successfully offered society membership to Lord Rathcavan — Protestant Speaker of the Ulster Parliament at the time — and De Valera.) Nevertheless Petrie’s Catholicism did give him a habit of mind which he would not have harboured if he had sprung from the agnostic or atheist upper-middle-class environment which has produced most recent British scholars.
I won’t tell you what website I got that from, to save the writer some embarrassment.
Oh, what the heck, they’re asking for it. It comes from: http://www.nationalobserver.net/2010/83_5_petrie_stove.htm, and it was repeated on the website http://teaattrianon.blogspot.ca/search?q=petrie.
Doesn’t matter who reported it first, they’ve both gotten it wrong. But in fact, I’m going to say that the ‘Tea at Trianon’ site is more wrong than the other one, and for this reason…THEY appear to have lifted their text verbatim from the other guy’s site, without giving him/her credit (although he/she did not deserve credit).
How can “Petrie’s Catholicism…give him a habit of mind which he would not have harboured if he had sprung from the agnostic or atheist upper-middle-class environment…” when he was Presbyterian? His autobiography, Chapters of Life, talks about his attendance at Sefton Park Presbyterian church “every Sunday morning.” It’s not beyond the realm of possibility that he might have converted, but I think he would have remarked on that in this part of his autobiography, had it been so.
Sir Charles’s father was my great-grandfather’s first cousin. The family religion was Presbyterian. That is a fact.
So there’s an example of one site getting it wrong and infecting another site…who probably infects another…and so on, and so on…
Leaving my ‘pet peeve’ behind for the moment, Sir Charles (again, he was a historian) claims for us a connection to George Petrie, famous antiquarian, as a ‘collateral’ relative.
“A collateral ancestor of note was another George Petrie, the famous Irish archaeologist, who is known to this day for his work on the Round Towers of Ireland. His father, James, was a portrait painter, who originally came from Aberdeen, but settled in Dublin about 1780…” Chapters of Life, p. 13
I wish I could see Sir Charles’s evidence for that, because I would love to welcome this connection without reservation. However, given some of Sir Charles’s other claims, and absent of supporting evidence (not for want of looking, I assure you), I just can’t.
We’ll do a quick recap…Sir Charles Petrie, 1st Baronet, and former mayor of Liverpool, son of Alexander Petrie of Carrowcarden (my great-great uncle, brother to my great-great grandfather, William Petrie of Rosserk), was the father of Sir Charles Petrie, historian, who wrote the book, Chapters of Life, upon which a great deal of our family genealogy was based.
More on that later.
Here’s Sir Charles’s description of his grandfather, Alexander Petrie of Carrowcarden (b. 1823, d. 1921):
“…An elder of the Presbyterian Church, a strong Radical, and a supporter of Home Rule, he was a man who did not know what compromise meant, but he was universally respected, and he is still remembered in Ballina.
At his house, Carrowcarden, now largely pulled down, the customs of an earlier day always obtained. One rose at six, and breakfasted very substantially at seven: there were light refreshments between twelve and one, but they amounted to no more than sherry and biscuits, and the pangs of hunger had to be repressed until five when there was a truly gargantuan repast which centred round, if the season was right, a salmon which had been boiled whole. When the gentlemen joined the ladies later in the evening, tea was served and, after a last look round outside to see that everything was all right, one retired to bed at nine. Although my grandfather was advanced in his opinions he was conservative in his habits: smoking indoors he would not tolerate, there was no lighting save lamps, and the closets were of the earth variety. He was wonderfully active until almost the end of his life, as is attested by the fact that he drank a whole bottle of whiskey to his own cheek in the Moy Hotel, Ballina, on his ninetieth birthday.” Chapters of Life, p. 14
I said, earlier, that Alexander of Carrowcarden (my great-great uncle) had a long life with significant highs and lows. He must have been proud of the success of his son, Charles, in Liverpool. The year 1903, when son Charles was knighted, must have been a banner year; as was 1918, when Charles became a baronet.
1886, on the other hand, was possibly the worst year of Alexander’s life.
Alexander’s wife, Margaret Lyell, died on March 18, 1886, at age 65. As bad as that loss was, there was pure tragedy yet to come. On Saturday, July 17, 1886, Alexander’s 25-year-old son (also named Alexander), and his 28-year-old daughter, Helen (called ‘Ellie’) were drowned in an accident when they were out on a pleasure excursion with friends.
I believe this first article is from The Ballina Journal of July 19, 1886.
THE MOY BAR
FIVE PERSONS DROWNED
RECOVERY OF TWO BODIES
On Saturday the most painful and heart-rending accident which ever occurred in this locality took place on the Moy, at Bartra, resulting in the loss of five lives. The victims were all young people, and sad to say, three of those lost belonged to one family—two sisters and a brother—and a sister and brother from the esteemed family of Mr. Alexander Petrie of Carricarden, Enniscrone. The seven persons left Ballina in a small pleasure boat for the bathing place, Moyne Abbey, but the tide had receded, and they were obliged to change their course and cross the Moy Bar, which is most dangerous. In doing so the heavy sea broke over the frail boat and upset her about 400 yards from the island of Bartra, in the estuary of the River Moy. Slight southerly wind prevailed, and the bar was unusually broken. Two of the occupants sunk immediately, but the others held on to the upturned boat for some time. Only two reached the shore—Mr. W. W. Wilson and Miss Darbyshire, the latter of whom was in a very critical condition. The occupants of the boat were—Wm. W. Wilson, aged 26; his sisters Maggie and Jessie, aged 23 and 20; and his brother, aged 15; Alexander Petrie, aged 25; and his sister Ellie, aged 28; and a young English lady, Miss Darbyshire.
The inquest was held on yesterday, and the following evidence by Mr. W. W. Wilson discloses exactly how the accident occurred. Attempting to cross the Moy Bar in a frail boat, 18 feet long, with seven persons, four of whom were ladies, was an extremely rash undertaking, but the beloved & unfortunate victims were all young and inexperienced, and were induced by the calmness and beauty of the weather to attempt the perilous passage—a feat at which the most experienced boatmen in the Bay hesitates.
The Coroner, R. Mostyn, Esq., opened the inquests at 1 o’clock.
The following jury was sworn:–Wm. Craven, (foreman) John Craven, Pat Mannion, John Ryan, Wm. Ryan, Cormick Fox, Gardiner A. Devany, John T. Armstrong, Edward Walshe, Thompson McEwen, Alexander Reid, James Ryan.
The Coroner said the first duty they had to perform was to view the bodies of the deceased.
When the Jury re-assembled the Coroner said—Gentlemen, I need scarcely remind you of the solemnity of the occasion, or of the sad duty on which we are assembled here to-day. Five young persons in the spring time of life, with hope and energy, and every prospect that would make life dear to them, have lost their lives in what I must say is the saddest, and most unfortunate occurrence, that ever in my long experience of public life, I heard of or had the unpleasant duty to preside at. We are here to investigate the cause of their deaths, which, I am sure, after hearing the evidence of the survivor, you will have no difficulty in arriving at a verdict. He desired to convey on his own, and on the Jury’s behalf, the expression of their deep sympathy to the afflicted friends of the deceased persons, and hoped that they were better provided for as God does everything for his own wise and inscrutable purposes.
The recital of the evidence of Mr. W. W. Wilson, particularly where he describes where his sister placed her arms round his neck was very sad, and those present were visibly affected.
Mr. Geo Petrie was the first witness examined, he having found the body of Miss Wilson—He deposed that on Saturday last he heard of the accident, and went to Bartra Island with others; was there informed that five individuals had been drowned, namely: Miss Margaret Wilson, Jessie Wilson, Miss Ellie Petrie, Alexander Petrie, and John Wilson, this was almost six o’clock: Mrs. Captain Monds kindly came on the shore and pointed out where the accident occurred, and with Capt. Monds, gave every assistance possible, although rain was falling at the time.
Coroner—What all good Christians would do.
Witness—We found the boat overturned close to the shore; about two miles farther down we found the body of Miss M. Wilson, which I fully identified, having known her before; we found no other body there that evening, but got hats &c, belonging to the occupants of the boat.
Sergeant Anderson explained that he had got the bodies to the mainland, as it would be very difficult to get a jury to the island.
Mr. William Wilson was next sworn. Was one of the seven occupants of the boat on the occasion; and brother to deceased Margaret Wilson, 23; left Ballina with Alex Petrie, my two sisters, Margaret and Jessie, brother Jack, Miss Darbyshire; were going to spend day at Moyne and Killala; we were to have picked up Miss Ellie Petrie at Paddy Brown’s, Scurmore, at five minutes past ten, but she was a few minutes late; we then saw her waving her handkerchief; and put in at the sand hills; we all got in here but the shifting sand made the girls wish to get back to the boat; Alex Petrie and I had off our boots; and we partly carried Miss Darbyshire and my sister Margaret to the boat, and they took off their boots and stockings, and Alex Petrie and I went up on the sand hills to call the others to the boat; they had a good way to come and we left the ladies across on Bartra and came back for Miss Petrie; Alex went to meet Ellie, and carried her over the soft place; all then crossed to Bartra, afterwards entered the boat to proceed to our destination, Moyne Abbey; I did not know the locality before but knew we were to cross the bar; we were to have crossed the flats, only that we were late for the tide; we talked of the risk of crossing the bar; the day was very fine, so much so that we could not sail, and had to pull; we did not think of danger.
I saw one line of breakers ahead, but the tide was sweeping us on fast; we crossed one breaker without shipping any water, and we were then in a comparatively good sea; we were in a very light boat, about 18 feet long, and had only light oars; suddenly the sea seemed to rise in, rolled on the crest; my brother and I were at the oars, and Mr. Petrie steering; my sister Margaret sat at the bow, and the three other ladies at the stern; on mounting the first breaker, we took in a little water, and Mr. Petrie said pull harder; we could not then possibly return; we did not even then apprehend much danger, and even the girls were not frightened; at the second wave the boat took in more water, and a third nearly filled the boat; could not do much with my oar after the third, and the boat then turned over to the left, letting us all easily into the water, no one moved until were thrown out; the first position the boat took was keel up, and [??] of us caught hold of the boat’s overlapping landings; the seas were dreadful, and we were swept from the boat; could not tell the depth, and I found myself some distance from the boat, and my sister Maggie had her arm round my neck, with some one else whom I thought to be my sister Jessie. [Here the witness was much moved.]
We got to the boat, and I put my sister Maggie on to the boat again. Alick Petrie, Miss Darbyshire, Maggie and I were on the boat together latest; sometimes I was swept off and got on again; and missed all the others; thinking all were gone; the last I saw was my sister Maggie holding on to the mast, which was unshipped, and floating about 30 yards from the boat; later on I was surprised to see Miss Darbyshire with a hold on the boat; she spoke about the others, and I told her never to mind them; she said she could not longer hold on; I told her I felt bottom, and very shortly I had hold of the boat; I was at the stern and she was at the bow; I with the assistance of the incoming wave got the boat to shore and we landed on Bartra; over 100 breakers must have passed over us while in the water.
Coroner—It was impossible for any creature to live there.
Witness—I then sent Miss Darbyshire to Captain Kirkwood’s house, and soon four of his men came to the shore, where I remained to see if any of the others would turn up; we searched along the shore, and when I came back to where the boat was I met Captains Kirkwood and Monds; after a short talk, Captain Kirkwood inquired when the accident happened, I told him half past eleven, as my watch stopped at that time; he said it was then ten minutes to one.
Coroner—What a long time you must have struggled in the water.
Witness—The two watches found on the deceased also stopped at the same hour; after the boat first overturned I do not remember seeing my brother Jack or Ellie Petrie.
Matthew Goodwin, of Rosserk, gave evidence that he with others on yesterday found Mr. Alix Petrie’s body, whom he had known in life; his remains were carried in by a wave about three or four o’clock; he had all clothes on except boots and stockings.
Coroner—Have you anything to say
Mr. P. L. Petrie said he had only to thank on behalf of his afflicted family all the kind and sympathetic persons who had done everything they could to assist in the recovery of the bodies, and gave every other help required. He trusted that God would reward them, and also give him and his family strength to bear up against this terrible affliction.
Mr. Wilson, senr, also joined his expressions of sincere thanks.
Captain Monds, his lady, and Captain Kirkwood were especially mentioned.
After a few moments the jury returned a verdict of accidental death, and also expressed great sympathy with the afflicted friends of the deceased.
There’s a second newspaper account, which adds a few things…
The Freeman’s Journal, July 20, 1886
The Shocking Boating Accident in Killala Bay
(Telegram from our Correspondent)
The shocking accident which occurred in Killala Bay on Saturday was the subject of a coroner’s inquiry to-day. Two of the bodies out of five have only been found. Coroner Mostyn and a jury from Ballina heard the facts as to the finding of the bodies, &c. The principal evidence was given by Mr. William W. Wilson, one of the two who escaped, and whose evidence, as follows, records the entire sad story:–
I was one of the seven occupants of the boat on the occasion. I am brother to the deceased, Margaret Wilson, aged 23.
I left Ballina with Alex Petrie, my two sisters, Margaret and Jessie, brother Jack, and Miss Darbyshire, and were going to spend the day at Moyne Abbey. We were to have crossed the flats only that we were too late for the tide; we talked of the risk of crossing the bar. The day was very fine, so much so that we could not sail, and had to pull. We did not think of danger. I saw one line of breakers ahead, but the tide was sweeping us on fast. We crossed one breaker without shipping any water, and we were then in a comparatively good sea. We were in a very light boat, about eighteen feet long, and had only light oars.
Suddenly the sea seemed to rise on rollers, with broken waters on the crest. My brother and I were at the oars, and Mr. Petrie steering. My sister Margaret sat at the bow and the three other ladies at the stern. On mounting the first breaker we took in a little water, and Mr. Petrie said—“Pull harder.” We could not then possibly return. We did not even then apprehend much danger, and even the girls were not frightened. At the second wave the boat took in more water, and a third nearly filled the boat. I could not do much with my oar after the third and the boat then turned over to the left, letting us all easily into the water. No one moved until we were thrown out.
The first position the boat took was keel up, and most of us caught hold of the boat’s overlapping landings; the seas were dreadful, and we were swept from the boat. I could not tell the depth, I found myself some distance from the boat, and my sister Maggie had her arm round my neck, with some one else whom I thought to be my sister Jessie. (Here the witness was much moved.) We got to the boat, and I put my sister Maggie on to the boat again. Alick Petrie, Miss Darbyshire, Maggie, and I were on the boat together latest. Sometimes I was swept off and got on again, and missed all the others, thinking all were gone.
The last I saw was my sister Maggie holding on to the mast, which was unshipped, and floating about thirty yards from the boat. She was swept away with the next breaker, and I also did not see her again. When I next came to the surface saw Miss Darbyshire clinging to the boat; swam towards her and got the boat on shore; she was then almost exhausted or near drowned, waiting for hours on the shore, but the others did not appear again. Help then arrived, and the first body was found six hours after the accident. The second was found on Sunday evening. None of the others have been recovered.
The jury returned a verdict of accidental drowning, expressing much sympathy with the relatives of the deceased.
The bodies were laid out in a country house by the sea side, and poor young Petrie, who was a splendid type of man aged 25, was terribly marked, evidently from collision with the boat before death, while striving to save his sister and the other young ladies. All the five drowned were of Scotch families, settled in this district.
This was the intended destination of the young people on that terrible day in 1886…
Moyne Abbey, attribution below
By Mark Wheaver – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4661459
“Moyne Abbey is one of the most impressive ecclesiastical ruins in Mayo and a National Monument. It was founded before the year 1455 by the Burke family as a Franciscan friary, and consecrated in 1462. It is located north of Ballina on the west side of Killala Bay. Like its neighbour, Rosserk Friary, it was burnt by Sir Richard Bingham, Elizabeth I of England’s governor of Connacht, in 1590 in reformationist zeal.” [Wikipedia]
This photo shows a portion of Bartra (or ‘Bartragh’) Island. I notice that in the tourist information for some of the coastal towns people are warned against swimming out past certain markers, owing to strong currents, especially around Bartra Island.
“Bartragh Island, lies across the mouth of Killala Bay into which the Moy estuary flows. It is the only natural barrier island in Ireland and is approximately 4.5 kilometres long. The island is separated from the mainland by wide expanses of intertidal sand flats (0.5-1 km wide). The island may be reached on foot near the eastern shore on some low tides, although this may only be the case on or near spring tides. In general it is advisable to travel to the island via boat, although there is no regular service available.” [National Parks and Wildlife Service, Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Appendix VIII – Bartragh Island site report and habitat map from the CMP (Ryle et al. 2009)]
William Petrie Sr. (of Rosserk), my great-great-grandfather, was not there to witness these heartbreaking events, as he had died two years previously (in 1884). He never knew of the accident that killed his nephew, Alexander, and niece, Ellie (Helen).
I was in Ireland a few years ago, and took some photographs of the farmhouse and outbuildings of William Petrie Sr.’s farmhouse in Rosserk (sometimes spelled ‘Rossirk’).
The residence is a very plain, single-storied farmhouse that was built by my great-great grandfather, probably in the 1850’s. This would likely have been where he died. I wish we could have gone inside, but it’s been derelict for some time, and we were told that it would be dangerous in the interior, even had we been granted entry. There were quite a number of farm outbuildings in the complex.
The Petrie house at Tonafortes (there are many spellings for that word!), Carraroe, pictured earlier was considerably more ostentatious than this, but I believe that this farmhouse structure was built purely for function, as part of an agricultural operation. It may be that the Tonafortes, Carraroe, house was (or became) William’s brother Alexander’s main residence, although the lease for Tonafortes was in William’s name, according to Griffiths Valuation. I don’t have a clear picture of who might have been in residence there, and when, although a hint comes by way of the family Bible, which recorded William’s daughter Jeanie’s death…
“Jeanie…Mrs. Peter Robertson Died at Towneyfortis, the residence of her father, on Wednesday, 29th July, 1868, at half past four o’clock in the afternoon, also her infant baby Elizabeth Robertson died on Thursday morning the 30th July, 1868, aged ten weeks. The mother aged 25 years. past,”
And after the final words giving the mother’s age (25 years), the single word, “past,” and nothing further for that entry. I believe that most family Bible entries for births (on the previous page) were recorded in great-great grandfather William’s hand, but the page that starts with daughter Anne’s early death, and goes to daughter Jeanie’s early death (both of them dying at their father’s home in Tonafortes) is written in another hand.
What did “past” mean? “Past understanding?” or “Past all human tolerance of grief?”
The third daughter to die young was written in the family Bible on this same page, after her sister Jeanie’s death, and it consists solely of her name, “Elizabeth Dewar” and nothing more. No date and no details. Whoever started to enter her death in the family Bible, may have looked at Elizabeth’s sisters’ deaths recorded just above, and couldn’t manage to say anything further. First of the three to die was Anne (age 27), second was Jeanie (age 25)–the third was Elizabeth, also age 25.
So Towneyfortis (a.k.a. Tonafortes) was my great-great-grandfather William Petrie’s residence in the years 1866 and 1868, at the times that his daughters and baby granddaughter died in that house.
Maybe he didn’t want to be there after that. Maybe the little farmhouse looked like a kindlier place to be. Or maybe the farmhouse was built after that, and not in the 1850’s as I originally thought. It might not have accommodated a family with ten children comfortably, and perhaps was built when the children were moving out and starting their own lives. I don’t know.
Also it seems that George and Thomas, born in 1855 and 1857, respectively, were each born in the Tonafortes house, so very likely the farmhouse was a later residence.
After the collapse of the fishery, when William was, I believe, predominantly farming, he would likely have resided in the house in Rosserk, and I base that on the fact that his obituary said that he died at Rosserk. William’s obituary is at the bottom of this article.
Interesting that, with all that he did in his life…fishery owner and manager, ship owner, real-estate developer, municipal politician, etc., etc., his occupation on his death registration is simply, “farmer.”
My great-great grandfather William of Rosserk, his sons, William (Jr.), Alexander (my great-grandfather), Peter, and John did not have Alexander of Carrowcarden’s good luck with longevity, dying at ages 65, 53, 47, 58 and 29, respectively. The causes of death were heart disease (William Sr.), Bright’s disease (William Jr.), ‘stomach cancer’ (Alexander)–and I have no idea what happened to Peter and John. William of Rosserk’s other sons were George and Thomas, and they lived to be ages 72 and 70, respectively.
As for the longevity of William of Rosserk’s other children, three of his four daughters: Anne (Petrie) Thompson, Jeanie (Petrie) Robertson, and Elizabeth (Petrie) Dewar, died in their 20’s (as I mentioned above): Anne at age 27; Jeanie at age 25; and Elizabeth also age 25. The youngest daughter, Jessie (Petrie) Patterson, lived to be 82. I’ll be talking about the girls later.
Returning to William Jr.’s letter (he was my great-uncle) to my great-grandmother Georgy yet again…
William said in his letter that his father, who had died ten years previously had left things in a bad way financially with a debt of £2200 owed to the bank. The value of that amount of money in 1881 would be roughly equivalent to £241,290.32 in 2015, which would be around $422,000 Canadian or $322,000 U.S. at present-day values, using the Bank of England’s inflation calculator. (Note that in 1826 the Irish pound was merged with the pound sterling.)
That’s a significant amount of debt.
However, it’s not completely beyond the realm of possibility, since the businesses he was engaged in were somewhat exposed to risk. In his farming operations, there would have been weather conditions to worry about. And any fishery in those days was subject to the availability of its product; some years the fishing was better than others. Also, a ship owner whose vessels crossed the ocean was exposed to the risk of losing a ship due to weather and storm. A safe return to port was never guaranteed. Then there were market conditions, competition, reliability of suppliers of equipment, availability of manpower, and so forth—all the ‘usual’ business risks, on top of that.
We’ll examine my great-great grandfather William of Rosserk from the family side now.
He was born in 1819, the eldest child of Peter Petrie (ca. 1796-1844) and Jane Thomson or Thompson (ca. 1796-1860).
William had four siblings: Margaret, (b. 1821, d. 1863, married George Dow), Alexander (b. 1823, d. 1920, married Margaret Lyell), Christian/Christina (b. 1826, d. 1869, married Thomas Bruce), and Elizabeth (b. 1827?—unverified—no record of birth, death or marriage that I can find).
I’m hoping this link will take you to a spreadsheet that shows the family connections I’ll be discussing. I’ve called it, ‘from Peter and Jane’ because the earlier generations are not verified, so I’ve deleted them for the moment.
FAMILY TREE NEWEST, from Peter and Jane
You’ll see in the family tree where I’ve indicated that there’s some question about the birthdates of parents Peter Petrie and Jane Thompson, because the Scottish census of 1841 lists both their ages as 40. The census-takers were apparently instructed to round-down ages to the nearest 5-year mark, which they did, but not consistently.
I have another source that says Peter was born in 1790, and his wife Jane in 1791, but I think that those years were appropriated to support a family tree based on some misinformation from Sir Charles Petrie’s autobiography, Chapters of Life, in which he said that Peter’s parents were George Petrie (b. 1748) and Margaret MacDonald (b. 1750).
Margaret MacDonald having a son in 1801, or even 1796, when she would have been between 46 and 51 years old would stretch the boundaries of belief (perhaps not in today’s world, but certainly for those times)–so Peter’s birth year seems to have been back-dated to 1790 to support Sir Charles’s contention that a Margaret MacDonald born in 1750 was Peter’s mother.
I don’t know whether Sir Charles genuinely believed that George was Peter’s father, or whether George was a convenience for supporting the census information that Peter was foreign-born. George was a soldier in the army, the 21st Regiment of Foot (North British Fusiliers) in his early military career, and the 72nd and 77th Regiments in the latter part. During his military career, he was stationed in Canada, the U.S. (during the American War of Independence), India, Barbados, Ceylon, etc.
Peter’s birthplace in the 1841 Scottish census is clearly noted to be “Foreign”—that is to say, he was NOT born in Scotland, England, or Ireland. If we could say, truthfully, that his father was George, the fact that George had been posted to various places in the world would easily explain the foreign birth.
Sir Charles says that Peter’s mother was Margaret MacDonald, daughter of James MacDonald, younger brother of Aeneas MacDonald–one of the Seven Men of Moidart who accompanied Bonnie Prince Charlie from France in his bid to regain the throne from the Hanoverians. Margaret MacDonald’s father supposedly went to Canada (Quebec) after the uprising of 1745 and the Battle of Culloden in 1746, since highlanders were being persecuted and driven out by royalist supporters.
With that information, Canada was looking like a promising locale for Peter’s birth, especially since George Petrie was captured, along with the rest of General Burgoyne’s forces at Saratoga, NY, in 1777. Burgoyne’s army was in Canada (Quebec, actually, since ‘Canada’ did not exist as we know it today) before marching to the U.S. to engage in battle with the Americans during their War of Independence. I believe that on their release from detention by the American forces, they—or some of them, at least—were sent back to Canada.
The army’s posting in Quebec, where Margaret MacDonald and her family supposedly lived, would explain George and Margaret’s meeting and marriage; and the regiment’s subsequent posting to Nova Scotia in 1790 would coincide with Peter’s original proposed birthdate, and his ‘foreign’ birth.
Unfortunately, while I was researching George Petrie’s military career in The London Gazette and charting his regiments’ postings (both regiments: the 21st Foot and the 72nd Foot), and reading about the history of those regiments, I came across George Petrie’s will.
I say, ‘unfortunately,’ but it didn’t feel that way at the time. It was an important find for me and I was delighted to pay the National British Archives the £3.50 fee for downloading the document. It felt a bit like Christmas. The writing in the will was a bit of a challenge, but I could see that there was mention of a bequest to a Miss Colvill, which confirmed what I had been told to this point in time…that George’s mother was Elizabeth Colville, daughter of the 6th Lord Colville of Culross.
I persisted in winkling out all the information I could get from the will, but once I’d figured most of it out, I was left with the stunning realization that George did not know that he had a wife named Margaret and a child named Peter.
Title: Will of George Petrie, Lieutenant Colonel in the Army of Ceylon , East Indies
Order number: 1405639
Catalogue reference: PROB 11/1304/98
Reference: PROB 11/1304/98
Description: Will of George Petrie, Lieutenant Colonel in the Army of Ceylon , East Indies
Date: 14 March 1798
Held by: The National Archives, Kew
Legal status: Public Record(s)
“I George Petrie Lieutenant Colonel in the army being of sound mind and judgement and considering the uncertainty of human life…”
You can see the fun I had deciphering this document’s information. But I think I got what I need from it.
Up until that point in time I believed Sir Charles Petrie’s account that Margaret MacDonald was the wife of George Petrie. With that in doubt, it was beginning to look like George was NOT my 4x great-grandfather, which means that Elizabeth, daughter of the 6th Lord Colville of Culross, was not my 5x great-grandmother.
Our connection to the Colvilles would have connected us to Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, on BOTH sides of their family…Prince Charles’s side (through the Bowes-Lyons) and Princess Diana’s side (through our mutual descent, Diana’s and ours, from Patrick, 3rd Lord Drummond). It would also make me the 21x great-granddaughter of King Robert the Bruce, the 27x great-granddaughter of King Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, and the I-forget-how-many-times great-granddaughter of William the Conqueror, and I spent a great deal of time happily tracing connections through the peerage.
Then, with the discovery of George Petrie’s will, suddenly those connections were in doubt. If there is no connection to the Colvilles, there are no royal ancestors.
A great pity, since I was having terrific fun with all those aristocratic connections. My (former) 26x great-grandfather, King John (Lackland) was the monarch forced to sign the Magna Carta. He’ll be known primarily as the villain in the Robin Hood stories, owing to some of his unfortunate personal attributes, although modern scholarship views him as an able administrator in spite of that.
Oh well, villain or not, able administrator or not, he MAY be my 26x great-grandfather no longer. Unless I can prove a connection to Lieutenant Colonel George Petrie, I have no kings and queens for great-great-great-great-etc. grandparents.
Sir Charles’s account of our family history was treated by most of us as gospel—he WAS a professional historian, after all, having written over 60 books of history. And it was our family—his and mine—that he was talking about in his autobiography/memoir Chapters of Life, which was published in 1950.
Sir Charles’s photo is below.
How were any of us to know that his account would not be completely reliable? Mind you, in retrospect, there were signs.
Perhaps he invented the George-and-Margaret branch on our family tree because it supported not only Peter’s foreign birth, but a romantic Jacobite connection which Sir Charles may have found desirable for his own reasons.
My great-great-great grandfather Peter was definitely FOREIGN born. The man purported to be his father (Lt. Colonel George Petrie) was stationed in Ceylon (Sri Lanka). I’m estimating Peter’s year of birth to be ca 1796–the same year as George’s will, IN WHICH HE STATES THAT “HIS GIRL” MARY IS WITH CHILD TO HIM. Is it possible that Peter is the illegitimate son of George and ‘his girl’ Mary? Would the executors of George’s will have arranged for Peter to be returned to Scotland? Perhaps given him into the care of the Colvilles? It makes sense, and the year lines up, and the foreign birth is explained. It also re-establishes our connection to the Colvilles.
Also, the fact that Peter raised his family in the vicinity of Dundee–where George Petrie’s mother, Elizabeth Colville, was likely born (her brother Alexander, the 7th Lord Colville of Culross was born there)–lends support to this.
It seems possible that “Margaret MacDonald” was invented by Sir Charles to cover-up for Peter’s illegitimacy. That would make sense, too.
IF this is correct, then all my aristocratic connections would be restored.
I would then be able to tell my husband (again) that King Robert the Bruce’s 21x great-granddaughter (me) cannot be required to undertake tasks of a menial or domestic nature. (Hurrah!)
What a funny thing it is when one has to prove that one’s 3x great-grandfather was the illegitimate son of a British Army officer and (possibly) his Sri Lankan housemaid in order to re-establish one’s blood kinship to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
And speaking of errors (not Sir Charles’s this time), below is a portion of a ‘Descendants Report’ starting from Robert Petrie and Elizabeth Colville, which I downloaded from the internet in 2009. (I suspect that Sir Charles’s book was the source, at least in part, for this.)
3. William PETRIE
William + Margaret => ?? + Alexander + Jessie + John + Peter + Thomas + William + George
b. at Roserk
m. Margaret MCDOW
William’s Parents: Peter PETRIE, Jane THOMPSON
The ‘William Petrie’ in the above record IS my great-great grandfather–for sure.
His parents WERE Peter Petrie and Jane Thompson. That is correct.
However, William did NOT marry his sister, Margaret. He married Elizabeth Williamson.
This is the registry record for William and Elizabeth’s marriage (in 1837):
AND…his sister’s name was Margaret DOW, not ‘McDow.’ The marriage record of Margaret and George Dow is below:
Name George Dow
Spouse’s Name Margaret Pettrie
Event Date 04 Dec 1841
Event Place Dunbog,Fife,Scotland
AND…he was not born at ‘Roserk,’ (a.k.a. ‘Rosserk,’ a.k.a. ‘Rossirk’) which is in Ireland. He was born in Scotland in 1819, likely in the Parish of Flisk in Fife, where his siblings were born, and did not go to Ireland until 1851-ish to live at ‘Rosserk’ (which is the correct, or at least the modern-day spelling).
This map shows the location of the parish of Flisk in Scotland on the shores of the Firth of Tay in Fife…
Contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11605596
The genealogy site which shows the misinformation about William has also omitted Ann (or ‘Anne’), who was the first child of William & Elizabeth, b. 1839. Their daughters Jane (‘Jeanie’) and Elizabeth are also missing from this record. William and Elizabeth had ten children.
I expect inaccuracies in internet information, but two ‘biggies’ in this record are that he married his sister and was born in Ireland. Those two would throw any genealogist off the trail. (And throw them off in other ways as well…married his SISTER?)
The thing is, this genealogy report starts with Robert Petrie and Elizabeth Colville, then goes to their son George and alleged wife Margaret (wrong–George was not married), and then goes to all the other wrong information about the rest of the family.
But now that information is on the internet, and some people will accept it for the truth without doing any research for themselves. Once it’s ‘out there’ it’s ‘out there’ and it will likely stay ‘out there’.
Let that be a warning to any genealogists reading this. If you don’t see it with your own eyes, don’t believe it; that is to say, go to the original record! Do not accept an internet genealogy report cobbled together from skewed facts and fantasy.
Anyhow…on we go…
The spelling of the surname ‘Petrie’ has a few variations in the registries…in the 1841 census, for example, the name is spelt ‘Pettrie.’ I’ve also seen ‘Petry’ and ‘Pettry,’ and an early version (17th century) ‘Patrie.’
I hesitate to introduce the following information, but I’ll include it just because we were told (again, Sir Charles Petrie is the source) that this person is our ancestor. Sir Charles tells us that he is a great-grandparent. Wrong again. He MAY be an ancestor of sorts, but he cannot be our great-grandparent.
Since we’ve all blindly accepted this connection for so many years (with good reason…a family historian with all sorts of accreditations told us), I feel that I need to present my research, for the benefit of other family members…
His name was Robert Patrie/Petrie and he started his political career as baillie of Aberdeen in the first half of the 17th century, and went on to be Provost of Aberdeen on three occasions in the mid-17th century, between 1664 and 1675. This is his signature…
From information taken from his ‘retour’ (Scottish legal document affirming the legitimate heir to his estate), we learn that his father was William, and that he had a brother James and a cousin Robert whose son James became his heir.
I can add, from other sources, that he also had a sister, Elizabeth, who married a Chalmers.
Robert Patrie/Petrie’s own son, William, must have died young for Robert Patrie to have left his estate to a nephew. That tells me that there were no male descendants from Robert Patrie in a direct line. If he’d had a grandson, he would have left his estate to him. SO…no son and no grandson, and therefore, as PETRIES, we cannot be descended from him.
I hired a Latin translator based in Scotland, and this is her translation:
(471) Apr. 24. 1688
James Petrie, eldest lawful son of Robert Petrie, merchant in Edinburgh, heir to Mr Robert Petrie of Portlethan, son of William Petrie, merchant in Aberdeen, brother of James Petrie, merchant there, brother of Robert Petrie, merchant in Edinburgh, father of the said James – brother son of his grandfather* – in a half salmon fishing called a rack and stells on the water of Dee, with ten salmon fish in each cavell of the said fishing called a rack and stells on the same water of Dee: – E. …. in feu: – tenements of land within the burgh of Aberdeen – E. 2 s[hillings] for every tenement xl. 152.
*nephew of his grandfather; i.e., his cousin
Robert Patrie married Anna Forbes on May 1, 1660, and this is their marriage registry:
Mr. Robert Patrie baillie and Anna
Forbes married the 1st day of May
The registry page heading gives the year (1660)…
She, incidentally, was the daughter of Sir William Forbes of Craigievar castle.
Craigievar Castle is a lovely pink structure…very Disney-esque. I had fun for a while, thinking that Sir William Forbes was my direct ancestor, and that this castle was an ancestral home. I even ordered a poster of the castle to hang on my wall. As it happens, Sir William Forbes is not my direct ancestor, but I will enjoy my poster, nonetheless.
Robert Petrie (Patrie) and Anna Forbes had at least one child, a son they called William. Below is the registration of his birth.
PATRIE 28 December (1662)
[Patrie: Maister Robert Patrie late baylie and Anna Forbes ane son called William. William Gray provost, Sir Robert Farquhar of Mounie, John Jaffray late provost….etc.]
The following is a partial list of Aberdeen’s provosts, amongst whom you will see some of the people listed in the birth registry for William (above). Robert Patrie/Petrie was a former baillie at the time of his son’s birth in 1662, and, as you’ll see from the list, he became provost for the first time in 1664, and served again in subsequent years.
• (1647–1648) Sir Patrick Leslie
• (1648–1649) Thomas Gray
• (1649–1650) Alexander Jaffray
• (1650–1651) Sir Robert Farquhar
• (1651–1652) Alexander Jaffray
• (1652–1655) George Morison
• (1655–1656) Thomas Gray
• (1656–1657) George Cullen
• (1657–1660) John Jaffray
• (1660–1662) Gilbert Gray
• (1662–1663) William Gray
• (1663–1664) Gilbert Gray
• (1664–1666) Robert Petrie
• (1666–1667) Gilbert Gray
• (1667–1671) Robert Petrie
• (1671–1674) Robert Forbes
• (1674–1675) Robert Petrie
What follows are explanations of the function of a ‘baillie’ and a ‘provost.’
A bailie or baillie is a civic officer in the local government of Scotland. The position arose in the burghs, where bailies formerly held a post similar to that of an alderman or magistrate (see bailiff). [Wikipedia]
The Lord Provost of Aberdeen is the convener of the Aberdeen City local authority in Scotland. They are elected by the city council and serve not only as the chair of that body, but as a figurehead for the entire city. [Wikipedia]
Here’s a bit of info about Robert Patrie of Portlethen from The History of the Parish of Banchory-Devenick, and mind how you go…some of it is wrong…
“The next proprietor was Robert Patrie, who was Provost of Aberdeen on several occasions between 1664 and 1674. He received the honour of knighthood at the hands of Charles II, and married Anna, second daughter of Sir William Forbes, first Baronet of Craigyvar. He is said to have been the representative of the ancient family of Glenavon in Banffshire. […] Patrie’s daughter, Elizabeth, became the wife of Robert Farquhar of Mounie, who received the honour of knighthood at the hands of Charles II. in 1651, whilst his sister, Elizabeth, was married to James Chalmers, second son of William Chalmers, the first legally established minister at Boyndie after the Reformation.” [Henderson, John A., History of the Parish of Banchory-Devenick. Aberdeen: D. Wylie & Son, 1890. pp.147-148]
An interesting write-up, but fraught with errors, unfortunately.
First, Robert Patrie (b. ca 1630) was not knighted. As we see from the quote above, John Henderson says he was knighted by Charles II. Sir Charles Petrie claims that Robert Patrie was knighted by James, Duke of York, who was Charles II’s brother, and who later became King James II. I can find absolutely no evidence of it.
Then there’s a problem with “Patrie’s daughter, Elizabeth” being the wife of Robert Farquhar of Mounie. The record of Robert Patrie’s son’s birth was dated December 28, 1662. Sir Robert Farquhar’s daughter Elspeit was christened on November 2, 1624, and his son George on March 15, 1621. [Munro, Alexander M., Memorials of the Aldermen, Provosts and Lord Provosts of Aberdeen 1272-1895. Aberdeen: Printed for the Subscribers, “Free Press” Printing Works, 1897, p. 152]
Munro would have us believe that Robert Patrie’s DAUGHTER was having children as early as 1621, when her own parents didn’t marry until 1660…almost forty years later.
That same book (p. 151) says, “Provost Farquhar married Elizabeth Patrie, the widow of Thomas Buck of Grandholm, by whom he had issue three daughters…” On page 152, it says, “The Provost’s widow died at Aberdeen on the 23rd November, 1665, and was buried in the old Church of S. Nicholas three days later, while the Provost survived her only about five weeks, having died on the 1st day of January, 1666, aged about 80 years.”
I’m sorry to quibble, but if she predeceased him by five weeks, she was never his widow. And it’s safe to say that this Elizabeth Patrie was not the daughter of Robert Patrie of Portlethen, Provost of Aberdeen.
Robert Farquhar DID in fact marry an ‘Elizabeth Patrie,’ widow of Thomas Bucke.
Elizabeth’s marriage to Thomas Bucke took place on January 8, 1639…
(Ano or Anno?) 1639 years
Thomas Bucke and Elspeit Patrie
Married the eighth day of January]
Hard work deciphering 17th century handwriting, but the record was identified by the archivist, so it can be interpreted.
So, that was Elizabeth Patrie’s first marriage.
Her second marriage, to Robert Farquhar was eight years later, on June 1, 1647…
Mr. Robert Farquhar of Mounie
Lord Provost and Elspeit Patrie
Married the first day June
The heading of that page gave us the year (1647). And in case I haven’t said, ‘Elspeit’ and ‘Elizabeth’ are interchangeable.
Now, referring back to the books that gave the christening or birth dates of two of Sir Robert Farquhar’s and Elizabeth Patrie’s children–could someone please explain to me how they were christened in 1621 and 1624 when their parents didn’t marry until 1647?
And again, we see in the original records that the Elizabeth Patrie who married Thomas Bucke in 1639 and Robert Farquhar in 1647, and who was said to be Robert Patrie’s daughter, married twice before her own parents were married on May 1, 1660, at St. Nicholas church in Aberdeen.
I know I’m beating this to DEATH, but “Researcher Beware!” These ‘accounts’ and published compilations of information can derive from faulty sources. Or maybe just wrong assumptions.
Munro says that Elizabeth (or Elspeit) Patrie, wife of Robert Farquhar, died in November of 1665, and I think that that’s right, according to the written record:
Dam—or Dame—Elizabeth Patrie
Lady to Sir Robert Farquhar
of Mounie was interred (?)
the 26 day of November 1665
Seventeenth century registrars liked to abbreviate.
Munro says that Sir Robert Farquhar himself died on January 1, 1666, and I didn’t verify that. With apologies to Sir Robert, it doesn’t really matter. Munro says he was around 80 years old. We can see in the partial list of Aberdeen provosts above, that his last turn as provost was 1650-51.
We’ve established that Sir Robert Farquhar’s wife could not have been Robert Patrie’s daughter, but she might have been related, all the same. Perhaps she was Robert Patrie’s aunt? The reason I suspect a familial connection is that Sir Robert Farquhar is mentioned in the birth registration of Robert Patrie’s son, William, on December 28, 1662.
This is not necessarily proof of a family connection, but it’s entirely possible that Farquhar’s wife Elizabeth Patrie may have had a connection to Robert and Anna Patrie. The relief rolls of 1639 list quite a number of the heads of Aberdeen families, and there were only two Patries on the list—so it wasn’t a common name.
Robert Patrie and Sir Robert Farquhar probably moved in the same social circles, since they were both involved in the municipal government, but I wouldn’t guess them to be friends, owing to their age difference. Possibly they had a mentoring relationship, or Robert Patrie may have wanted to show deference and respect to the older man, who was wealthy and influential. If Munro was right about Farquhar’s age at his death in 1666, he would have been in his mid-70s at the time Robert Patrie’s son was born in 1662.
Here is the burial information for Robert and Anna Patrie (née Forbes) along with other Patries on the same page of the registry:
17 Nov 1675 Anna Forbes spouse to Provost Petrie £40-0-0 in the kirk with ane oaken coffin
1686 Janet Patrie by warrand
Jan 1687 Margaret Peiter £3-0-0
Dec 1687 Mr. Robert Patrie late provest £40-0-0 in the Church
1697 Robert Pettrie upon warrand
Dec 1698 Rob. Patrie on warrand
Aug 1699 Janet Patrie on warrand
5 Aug 1700 child of James Petrie £1-0-0
8 May 1701 Robert Patrie son to Patrie of Portlethin £2-0-0
£40 in 1687 would be £8,787.93 in 2016, but the Scots pound at this time was ¼ that value, so the burial would be more like £2,200 today, which is still quite an expensive burial for the time. It seems, from other records in the same register, that a pretty average burial cost would be from £1 to £3.
The ‘Robert Patrie, son to Patrie of Portlethin’ who died in May of 1701 does not appear to be the late provost’s son, incidentally. As mentioned, the Portlethen estate was inherited by Patrie’s nephew James, and very likely the Robert who died in 1701 was James’s son.
I’m not quite sure what is meant by ‘on warrand’ or ‘upon warrand’ for this time period. Since it appears in the column for expenses, I’m wondering whether it is some sort of poverty provision. Or perhaps it signified that a coroner’s involvement was needed to authorize the burial.
In any case, it is apparent that funeral costs were not a problem for Robert and Anna Patrie.
Sir Charles Petrie described the Petries/Patries of Aberdeen in this way:
“The Petries hailed from Aberdeen and Kincardine, and one of them is said to have fought at Bannockburn. There are fifteen members of the family on the burgess-roll of Aberdeen between 1399 and 1631, and in the early years of the reign of Charles II one Robert Petrie, laird of Portlethen, was Provost of Aberdeen on seven occasions, and was M.P. for that city from 1665 to 1667 and again from 1669 to 1674. He was knighted by the Duke of York, afterwards James II, and the records show that while he was engaged on his Parliamentary duties at Edinburgh the Council of Aberdeen allowed him £5 Scots a day, so perhaps he may be said to have made politics pay. Not long afterwards the family fortunes declined, for the Petries supported the Stuarts after the Revolution. Victrix causa deis placuit, sed victa Catoni, and Cato, in this case my ancestors, suffered for his loyalty.”
I was going to contradict Sir Charles on the number of times Robert Petrie/Patrie was provost, because, from the list, it looks like three. However, it seems that provosts were elected year-by-year, and there were seven years for Robert Patrie, so some of his terms in office were consecutive.
I do have to take issue with Sir Charles’s assertion that Robert Patrie was knighted. As previously mentioned, I can find no record of it. Also, Robert Patrie ran seriously afoul of King Charles II in 1674, if the following account is to be believed, which makes a knighthood (even one granted by James, Duke of York) even more unlikely.
The passage quoted below is taken from Alexander M. Munro’s Memorials of the Aldermen, Provosts, Lord Provosts of Aberdeen, 1272-1893, in the section on Robert Petrie of Portlethen:
In July, 1665, there was a meeting of the Convention of Burghs held in Aberdeen, at which Petrie was elected moderator. This was not the last time, however, that the honour was put upon him, although on the second occasion it was rather dearly purchased. Charles, by a letter dated in July, 1674, ad-dressed himself to the Convention, asking them to revoke their statutes which provided that burgesses might be elected as representatives to Parliament, although not actual indwellers of the burghs they represented. In proceeding to draw up an answer to His Majesty’s letter, several members of the Convention were not pleased at the manner in which it was couched, and refused to be parties to sending it, but the answer bearing date 17th August was ultimately approved of by the majority of the Commissioners present. Among those who did not see their way to plainly tell the King that the burghs in Scotland had endured quite enough of interference in their affairs by His Majesty was James Currie, Provost of Edinburgh, and moderator of the Convention. As he refused to sign the letter he left the chair, and Petrie was chosen moderator for the purpose of signing the letter. The result was most disastrous to the Provost, for the letter was considered highly offensive, and he was fined in the large sum of a thousand pounds Scots. Petrie was in Aberdeen till about the middle of January, 1675, but evidently having difficulty in raising the amount of the fine, he went south to Edinburgh, and on the 18th January the Council minutes of that city contain the following :
” Provost Peitrie in Aberdeane entered in prison within the Tolbuth of Edr., according to the Council’s order.”
Meanwhile, a meeting of the Convention had been held in Edinburgh, when a letter was adopted and sent to His Majesty, entirely repudiating the former missive, and intimating that it had been deleted from the minutes of the Convention. The magistrates of Aberdeen, acting along with the Council, evidently got alarmed at the turn matters had taken, and they also took the earliest opportunity of sending a commissioner to the Convention to express their entire disapproval of the action taken by Provost Petrie. The Provost appears to have remained in ward for some considerable time, as it was not till the month of April that the Council, on the supplication of Petrie, agreed to lend him the sum of a thousand pounds to pay the fine. It does not appear that the Provost ever repaid this sum, the burgh feeling itself, doubtless, in honour bound for the debt, considering how it had been contracted.”
I don’t know exactly what a thousand pounds Scots was worth versus the pound, but the value of the Scottish pound was debased versus the English pound in the time of James II (1685-1688) to a ratio of 4:1. That may mean that the fine was 250 pounds sterling; still a substantial fine for the times.
This illustration below shows the old Tolbooth Prison in Edinburgh where Robert Patrie was held for a time, until his fine was paid to the king.
“Over the years it served a variety of purposes such as housing the Burgh Council, early meetings of the Parliament of Scotland and the Court of Session. The Tolbooth was also the burgh’s main jail where, in addition to incarceration, physical punishment and torture were routinely conducted.” [Wikipedia] The building was demolished in 1817.
I’m going to re-quote Sir Charles at this point, where he says, “the records show that while he was engaged on his Parliamentary duties at Edinburgh the Council of Aberdeen allowed him £5 Scots a day, so perhaps he may be said to have made politics pay.” Hmmm…I don’t think that the money quite compensates for incarceration in Tolbooth prison. Did Sir Charles know about that?
The following is also from the ‘Memorials’ book by Munro…
Anna Forbes died in November, 1675, and the Provost was dead by the 24th April, 1688, when James Petrie, eldest son of Robert Petrie, merchant in Edinburgh, was served heir to his uncle. In a MS. return for poll, dated 1694, this James Petrie, who describes himself as ” late oft’ Portlethene,” gives up his stock for the purpose of the polltax as above 500 and within 5,000 merks. At that date he was married and had two young children, one of whom was in all probability the “Robert Patrie, son to Portlethen,” who was interred in the family grave in S. Nicholas Church on the 8th May, 1701. [oops, where’s my reference? oh, who cares…just trust me]
While Sir Charles Petrie, historian, may be right that Robert Patrie, provost of Aberdeen was our ancestor in some way, he definitely puts a foot wrong when he says in his memoirs:
“The next Petrie of any note was Sir Robert’s great-grandson, and my great-great grandfather, George Petrie.” [Chapters of Life, p. 11]
First, as I’ve said, Robert was not a ‘Sir’. And as George’s will bears witness, George was nobody’s great-great grandfather, unless Mary “his girl” named in the will, whom he suspected to be with child by him, gave birth to PETER, who was returned to Scotland at some point.
Incidentally, I take George’s comment that Mary was “his girl” to mean that she was a servant in his household in Ceylon, probably a young-ish local woman, since he leaves her 200 rupees in his will as a ‘marriage portion,’ and an additional 500 rupees, under the administration of one of his executors, for the child. I expect he thought it would improve her chances of marrying someone if she were to be furnished with a dowry on his demise.
I’m not sure that an additional 500 rupees would defray the expenses of bearing his child. How many Sri Lankan men would accept as bride a woman bringing with her the offspring of a British military officer? I don’t know. I think it might get complicated. Perhaps Mary decided to give the child up–and if this child was Peter, my 3x great-grandfather, he would have been taken to Scotland by somebody, maybe one of George’s executors–perhaps Alexander Gray?
I leave and bequeath unto Mary my Girl the sum of two hundred rupees as a marriage portion and as there is a probability of her being with child to me I leave her further the sum of five hundred rupees subject to the management of my friend Lieutenant Alexander Gray…
Found this information in the Lachlan and Elizabeth Macquarie Archive. He kept a journal during his time in the military in India, and this entry from 1793 tells us that he was able to rent a fairly nice house for 50 rupees per month, which gives us a little bit of an idea about the purchasing power of the rupee in the 1790s. I’ve seen another entry that says he rented a house for 150 rupees for himself and his new wife.
The 77th. Regiment removed to Bombay.
I omitted to mention, that on the removal of the Regiment from Coolabah on this day to the Barracks in Bombay, that I took a neat little up–stair House adjoining to the Ramparts in the Rear of the Garden Ravelin, for Fifty Rupees per Month; where I am very well accommodated.
[Macquarie, Lachlan. Journal No. 2: 26 March 1792 – 28 December 1794.]
Whether or not the direct connection to George Petrie is valid, Sir Charles’s claim that we descend directly from Provost Robert Patrie/Petrie is not.
Provost Robert Patrie’s son, William, appears to have died young, with the result that his estate went to his nephew, James. Provost ROBERT was not the great-grandfather of George.
On page 12 of Chapters of Life Sir Charles says of George,
“In 1796 he was present at the capture of Colombo, and ten years later, already on half-pay, he died through the re-opening of a bullet wound in the leg; though when or where he received it history does not relate.”
There are a few contributions I could make to that snippet from Sir Charles’s memoirs. First, Colombo, Ceylon, or Sri Lanka, was being governed by the Dutch East India Company in July of 1796 when it was handed over to the British, which was one month before George Petrie died. So he was ‘present’ but must have been seriously ill, dying shortly thereafter…the next month, in fact.
George WAS apparently wounded, and it seems to have been at the battle of Seringapatam, against Tipu (a.k.a. ‘Tippoo’) Sultan, in 1792. There were a number of battles in that conflict, and the concluding one, in which Tipu Sultan died, was in 1799.
||Occupation or Status
||List of Officers Killed and Wounded in the attack on Seringapatam. Wounded.
This record seems to fit. George was promoted to major in the 21st Foot, as published in The London Gazette of November 20, 1790. So his rank is correct for the battle of Seringapatam in 1792.
He changed regiments from the 21st to the 72nd in 1791. This is from The London Gazette of January 4, 1791: “72d (Highland) Regiment of Foot, Brevet-Major, George Petrie, from the 21st-Regiment, to be Captain of a Company, vice Brevet-Major James Campbell, who exchanges.”
I didn’t see a transfer to the 77th regiment in The London Gazette (that’s not to say it wasn’t there–just that my search didn’t pick it up), but it seems that this happened in July of 1794, according to Lachlan Macquarie (see quote below). This makes sense, since George Petrie’s close friends and executors, Colin Anderson and Alexander Gray, were both with the 77th…
By this day’s Post from Bengal, official accounts arrived of the Promotion of Major Stirling to the Lieutenant Colonelcy of the 74th. Regiment vacant by the death of Colonel Hamilton Maxwell. — Brevet Major George Petrie from the 72d. Regiment succeeds Major Stirling as Major to the 77th. Regiment.
[Macquarie, Lachlan. Journal No. 2: 26 March 1792 – 28 December 1794.]
I didn’t really have a good sense of what it meant (or means) to be a Major as opposed to a Lieutenant Colonel or anything else, really. George Petrie was a Brigade Major at the battle of Seringapatam (1792), where he was reported to have been wounded. What did his position in the pecking order mean at that time…what did ‘Brigade Major’ mean?
This comes from the Lachlan and Elizabeth Macquarie Archive (again), and is from 1793. Apparently with this promotion and the additional income it provides, Lachlan Macquarie is now in a position to propose to his lady-love…
Friday. In this day’s General Orders, I have the happiness to find myself appointed to act as Major of Brigade to His Majesty’s Troops on the coast of Malabar, in room of Major Auchmuty, untill [sic] the Commander–in–chief’s pleasure is known: – I cannot express the joy and satisfaction I felt in being informed by Major Auchmuty of my succeeding to this appointment; – I feel myself most gratefully obliged to Sir Robert Abercromby for it, and shall ever remain very gratefully attached to him for this and other obligations he has laid me under; – but, I feel a most pleasing satisfaction from this appointment above all other considerations, as it affords me now the privilege of disclosing my attachment to my dearest Miss J. – which I did not feel myself warranted or authorised to do before; both on account of my very circumscribed income, as well as my promise to Mr. Morley; but, I am now resolved on making her acquainted with my sentiments without loss of time. —
The London Gazette published George Petrie’s promotion to Lieutenant Colonel in the 72nd (77th?) Regiment on September 6, 1794, two years after the battle at Seringapatam.
The Word document in the link below describes some of the military actions in which he was involved in India. His name is mentioned in one place in this document, but I don’t see him described as wounded in any of the battles. Not surprising in the least, since there’s no reason this account of the regiment should be any more accurate than other published records of historical events.
History of the 72nd Regiment
George Petrie apparently died in Ceylon/Sri Lanka, not too long after his will was written. (The will is dated August 21, 1796, and his date of death was August 25, 1796.)
||Date of death
||25 Aug 1796
||The Colombo Pettah Burial Ground
||Sacred to the memory of George Petrie, Esq., a Lieutenant-Colonel in the British Army and Commandant of this Garrison, who died the 25th day of August,1796, in the 45th year of his age..
||See image for further bioigraphical details
Sir Charles is correct in putting George in Colombo, Ceylon, in 1796, because that is the year and the place of the writing of George’s will. The will was ‘proved’ two years later, in 1798. Sir Charles’s information that he was still alive 10 years after writing his will is, however, incorrect. Interesting that Sir Charles thinks that George died in 1806, because even the family tree that I started working from (passed along from earlier family genealogists) says that he died in 1801. So where did THEY get 1801? And where did Sir Charles get 1806?
In case you’re unclear about a will being ‘proved,’ here’s an explanation: A will only takes effect (of course) after the death of the person who wrote it. After death, the executor(s) named in the will have to get the will proved and probated. What this entails is satisfying the probate registrar that the will is valid (among other things, validity will rest upon the will having been legally “attested,” or signed by the deceased and two witnesses all in the presence of one another). The executor swears an oath and, having proven their entitlement to act, obtains the Grant of Probate, a one-page certificate (upon which the value of the estate is recorded) enabling them then to ingather the assets, pay any inheritance tax, distribute the estate to its rightful heirs and wind up the administration.
“On the fourteenth day of March in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and ninety eight administration (with the will and codicil [?]) of the goods chattels and [credits?] of [?] George Petrie late a Lieutenant Colonel in His [?] Majesty’s Service at Ceylon in the East Indies [?] was granted to William Petrie Esquire the lawful attorney of Collin Anderson and [?] Alexander Gray the Executors named in the said will…”
The writing is a bit difficult to decipher, but I think that I’ve got the basic facts that George Petrie was ‘late’ a Lieutenant Colonel (meaning that he has died, rather than retired–any rank achieved in the military is permanent, and is not relinquished on retirement); the date was March 14th of 1798; and the administration of his estate was granted to William Petrie, the lawful attorney of Collin Anderson and Alexander Gray, “the executors named in the said will.” Evidently there was a year and a half delay after his death before the executors got to work.
Found another mention of one of George’s executors (Colin Anderson) in the journal of Lachlan Macquarie…
“…preparatory to the happy event, I took my leave of her untill [sic] the Evening, and went to the Barracks, where I took a sober farewel [sic] and last Bachelor’s dinner with my good and much esteemed friend Surgeon Colin Anderson of the 77th. Regiment, with whom I had some agreeable conversation on my approaching happiness.”
[Macquarie, Lachlan. Journal No. 2: 26 March 1792 – 28 December 1794]
Additional mentions of George in Lachlan Macquarie’s journals are below. Unfortunately, Macquarie lost his wife Jane in the month before George Petrie died, or we would have learned more about what happened to him in the final stage of his life. The journal for 1796 appears to end in the month of May. However, we can see George Petrie in action here, from February 24, 1795, until a few months before he died in August of 1796…
Feby. 24. (1795)
Tuesday. — This Eveing [sic] Major George Petrie of the 77th. Regt. arrived in Cantonments from Madras, and took the command of the Regiment next morning after inspecting it. — The Officers were introduced to him in the morning by Captain Whitelocke. He is to live in the mean time with his old friend and acquaintance Doctor Anderson, until his own House is ready to receive him. He appears to be an extreme pleasant Gentleman–like man, and he bears a very high character as an officer. I rode into Town with Major Petrie Capt. Whitelocke and Doctor Anderson; the Major having obligingly called previously to wait on and be introduced to Mrs. Macquarie; – we invited him to dine with us on the following Sunday, which he accepted. —
Sunday. Major Petrie, Capt. Whitelocke, Mr. and Mrs. Shaw, Anderson, Gordon and several other friends dined with us this day, ands we had a very agreeable Party. —
It rained a great deal the whole of this month — nothing new occurred: except that Major Petrie has been very ill of the liver for some time past, but is now recovering. —
Monday. I went this morning with my Brother in law, and Lieut. Alexr. Campbell, to introduce them to Colonel Petrie (lately Lt. Colonel by Brevet) and all the officers of the Regiment, who were all very happy to see them. —
Sunday. — Lieut. Colonel Petrie having pretty well recovered from his late illness, was able to come out to dine with us today. — He was some long time since so obliging as to do the favor to become one of our Sunday Party; but, for a month past we have been deprived of his Society. — Mr. Richards, Capt. Whitelocke, Capt. Bowne, and several other friends dined with us also this day. — We had a most pleasant Party.
[Lachlan Macquarie has evidently forgotten George Petrie’s rank in this next entry…]
Tuesday. This day Major Petrie with the two Flank Companies of the 77th. Regt., and the Grenadier Battn. of Native Infantry were ordered to hold themselves in readiness to march on the 23d. Instant. — The cause of this Detachment being ordered, is in consequence of orders lately transmitted from home, announcing that the Dutch have Seceded from the Grand Confederacy against France, banished the Stadtholder, (who has been obliged with his family to fly to England for Protection) and formed an alliance with the French Nation who had conquered and overrun the greatest Part of Holland: this Detachment, in consequence of these advices, is ordered by the Bombay Government to Cochin to offer that Government the British aid and Protection during the present war with France, offering to garrison and hold it for the Prince of Orange until he is restored again as Stadtholder or a General Peace is concluded; if the Dutch do not accept of these amicable terms offered through Colonel Petrie, a stronger force in that case is to be sent after him, to enable him to force the Dutch to a compliance in a hostile way; if they do not give up the Place peaceably, which it is supposed they will not Do. —
Thursday! Major Petrie and the Detachment ordered on the 21st. Inst. marched this morning at Seven O’Clock for Cochin: we, who call ourselves on this occasion the precious remains, flatter ourselves we shall not remain long behind the Guardians of our right and left Wings.
Friday. At 6.A.M. The Regiment marched to occupy a new ground of Encampment about 3 miles farther on, where we formed a junction with our two Flank Companies. —After writing to my dearest Jane from our new ground and dressing myself, I went to visit my worthy friend Colonel Petrie at his Head Quarters at the principal Encampment of his Detachment near Vijpeen Point opposite to Cochin and distant about 3 miles from ours. — I staid [sic] to dine with him, and spent a very pleasant day. — Here I met with my excellent good friend Doctor Anderson of the 77th., who had been sent to join Colonel Petrie’s Detachment some little time before as Head Inspecting Field Surgeon – and for which important situation no one was more fit. — I returned home in the Evening. —
Saturday. — I rode out early this morning along with my Brother in law Lieut. Jarvis to introduce him to Colonel Petrie as a Volunteer desirous of having the honor of serving under him on the present Service – and the Colonel was so good as to accept of his Services in the handsomest and kindest manner, directing that he should be attached to and do Duty with the 77th. Grenadiers until further orders. — We staid [sic] to Breakfast with Colonel Petrie and then returned to our own Camp. —
Sunday. — At 4.A.M. The Tents were Struck and the 77th. Regt. marched to the Banks of the Ayacottah River, distant only half a mile where we embark on Jangars along with the Bombay Sepoy Grenadier Battn. commanded by Capt. John McDonald, and accompanied by Colonel Petrie and his staff.
Monday. — This is a Halting Day, and our mess dine with Col: Petrie.
Septr. 1. Col: Petrie having issued the necessary orders to that effect, and every proper arrangement being previously made for that purpose, The Detachment crossed the Cochin River under cover of the night, in Jangars and such other Boats as could be procured, into the Island of Cochin, in four separate Divisions.
Thursday. — Colonel Petrie attended by his Staff and the Engineer went out this morning to Reconnoitre the Enemy’s Position, Fortress of Cochin, and the different Roads leading to it from our present Ground of Encampment. — I had the honor to be appointed to command the Escort that accompanied the Colonel consisting of Two Companies of the 77th. and Two Companies of Grenadier Sepoys. — We set out at 5,O’Clock in the morning, and returned about 11,O’Clock after a very pleasant Excursion through the Country immediately lying between us and the Town and Fortress of Cochin…
Sunday. — Mr. Stevens, Supravisor of the Province of Malabar, and his Secretary Mr. Richards, arrived this day in Camp. — In the Evening these two Gentlemen, accompanied by Colonel Petrie, went into Cochin Fort at the particular request of the Dutch Governor to have an interview and conference with him previous to the commencement of Hostilities.
Monday. — I am “Captain of the Day”, and consequently in command and charge of all the Camp Guards & Piquets. —
I dined with Colonel Petrie in company with Mr. Stevens & Mr. Richards
In the Evening Govr. Van Spall sent in to Col: Petrie and Mr. Stevens an equivocal and evasive answer, requesting another day to consider of the Proposals made him yesterday, which is granted. — Mr. Stevens and Mr. Richards left Camp this Evening. —
Tuesday. — Governor Van Spall sent in another evasive answer this morning to Colonel Petrie, of which the latter took no notice. —
By this day’s Tappal or Post from Madras, we received a most unwelcome and very unpleasant piece of news – which the officers of the 77th. Regt. most sincerely regret – namely: that His Majesty has not been pleased to confirm the appointment of Brevet Lt. Colonel Petrie to the Majority of the 77th., to which he had been some time since nominated by Sir Robert Abercromby the Commander in Chief in India, in room of Major Stirling Promoted to the Lt. Colonelcy of the 74th. Regt.; but that Capt. Whitelocke (our eldest Capt.) has succeeded to the Majority from interest made for him by his friends at Home. — This news however is not yet received officially which induce us to hope it may still be so arranged at Home as to admit of Colonel Petrie continuing our Major and Commanding officer. — At all events many months must elapse before the official intelligence can come to hand to remove him. —
Wednesday. — Govr. Van Spall has at length sent in to Col: Petrie a pretty clear and decisive answer to the proposals lately made him, by which it appears that he is positively determined not to admit a British Garrison into Cochin – but on the contrary to defend it to the last extremity.
Friday. — I was relieved early this morning by Capt. Grant and an equal number of officers and men; and returned to Camp with my Detachmt., where I arrived at 9,O’Clock and made my Report to Colonel Petrie.
Tuesday. — Colonel Petrie went over this day to visit the Post at Vypeen and to hasten the preparations there, now that the Guns & Stores are arrived. —
Wednesday. — Colonel Petrie returned from Vypeen, and is well pleased with the state of forwardness of that Post. —
Sunday. — Colonel Petrie this day received an order from Colonel Mc.Pherson, now Commanding in the Province of Malabar, directing him to order me up immediately to Calicut, in order there to be ready to avail myself of the first opportunity that may offer of proceeding to Bombay, as an Evidence at Capt. Mc.Kenzie’s General Court Martial. —
I have however written officially to Col: Petrie soliciting most earnestly that he may apply and obtain permission for me to be allowed to remain here until the Siege of Cochin is over, and he has accordingly written and forwarded my application to the Commanding officer of the Province of Malabar. —
I ceased firing the Six Pounder at 7,O’Clock, and was then relieved by Captain Grant, to whom I delivered over charge of the Post. — I staid [sic] to Breakfast with Capt. Grant, and then marched my Detachment back to Camp, where I made my Report to Colonel Petrie as soon as I arrived, and who expressed himself very much pleased with my Proceedings. —
Colonel Petrie having intimated that he had some orders of importance to send over immediately to Major Wiseman Commanding at the Post on Vypeen Point, I volunteered to be the Bearer of them; and the Colonel having communicated to me verbally his Instructions for Major Wiseman, I rode back as fast as I could to Muttoncherry…
I left the Battery about 2,O’Clock and arrived in Camp about 4,O’Clock in the afternoon. — I found Colonel Petrie in the Trenches, where I made him my Report. —
About half an hour before my arrival in the Trenches, the Enemy had beat the chamade and hung out the White Flag on the South West Bastion of Cochin Fort to beg a Truce and a Cessation of Hostilities for the purpose of proposing terms of Capitulation. — An Officer with a Flag of Truce from Govr. Van Spall arrived in our Trenches about Five O’Clock with certain Proposals for Colonel Petrie’s acceptance – but which he deemed inadmissible and accordingly rejected; granting however Two Hours more to the Governor for consideration of the Terms now proposed to him by Colonel Petrie – “to surrender as Prisoners of War” —
The Dutch Officer was accordingly sent back immediately to the Fort with this message. — Several messages passed and repassed between the Dutch Governor and Colonel Petrie in negotiating the Terms of the Capitulation to be granted to the Garrison; but those proposed by Colonel Petrie were finally, (at a very late hour of the Night,) after much discussion and studied delay on the part of the Dutch, submitted to and signed by Governor Van Spall.
Tuesday! — At Noon today, agreeably to the Articles of Capitulation signed last Night by Colonel Petrie and Governor Spall, A Detachment of the 77th. Regt. consisting of Two Captains (Capt. Whitelocke & myself) Four Subalterns and 150 men marched from Camp to take Possession of the Muttoncherry Gate of Cochin Fort…
Wednesday. — I made my Report early this morning to Major Wiseman, and Breakfasted with Colonel Petrie, and Congratulated him on the happy success of our operations. — The Dutch Garrison are now perfectly quiet and there was no disturbance last night in the Town owing to the very judicious arrangements made by Colonel Petrie.
Sunday. — I took a very pleasant Ride with Doctr. Anderson, my Brother in law, and some other friends, this forenoon, along the Island of Cochin as far as the South end of it, through a very rich beautiful Country, going through the middle of the Island and returning Home by the Sea–Beach. — On our return we visited Colonel Petrie in Cochin Fort. —
Octr. 27. At 3,O’Clock I left Camp along with my Travelling Companions and went into the Fort, where we all dined with our greatly esteemed and respected Commanding Officer Colonel Petrie, and with whom we spent a most jovial pleasant day. — After Dinner the Colonel was so good as to accompany us to governor Van Spall’s, where we were introduced to himself, his Lady, and Daughters. — We staid [sic] about an hour with them, it being at the Governor’s Garden House (about a mile from the Fort) that we visited them, another returned to Col: Petrie’s House in the Fort, took a slight Supper with him, and Embarked on board of our Pattamar about 9,O’Clock at Night.
Thursday. — This Government received late last Night Dispatches from the Supreme Government at Bengal, which contain orders to have a Detachment of Troops and Stores immediately prepared on the Malabar Coast to be ready when called for to Co–operate with one from Madras for the Reduction of the Dutch Fortress of Columbo; and all other settlements belonging to that Nation on the Island of Ceylon; – which orders were this immediately day communicated by the Bombay Government to Colonel Balfour Commanding the Forces under this Presidency. — The 77th. Regt. is to be employed on this Service, and I am rejoiced to find that my worthy good friend Colonel Petrie is nominated to command the Bombay Detachment ordered for this Service. — The Expedition against Columbo is to be commanded by Colonel James Stuart of the 72d. Regt. – a very old and experienced gallant good officer. —
Saturday. — I wrote this day to Colonel Petrie, Dr. Anderson, and other friends of the 77th., announcing to them the agreeable intelligence of our being ordered on the expedition against Columbo. — My Letters went by a Dispatch Boat which sailed this day for Malabar.
Jany. 17. (1796)
Sunday ! — We have had a charming fair wind over since we left Calicut yesterday; and at 4,O’Clock this afternoon we anchored in Cochin River close to the Fort. — I waited immediately on landing on my amiable worthy friend Col: Petrie who was very happy to see me. — I afterwards called on Capt. Whitelocke, Doctr. Anderson, and all my other 77th. Friends – all of whom I found well and happy. —
Thursday ! — Colonel Petrie having received intelligence that Colonel Stuart with the Troops destined for the Siege of Columbo, had embarked and sailed from Madras, and that the whole of the Troops destined for this Expedition were directed to Rendezvous at Negombo, in the Gulph of Manar; the Bombay Detachment Embarked this morning at Cochin on board their respective Transports. — The whole of the 77th. Regt. embarked on board the Epaminondas, a very large Ship, which held us all very commodiously. — Colonel Petrie himself embarked on board the Swift Cruizer Commanded by Capt. Billamore.
Monday. — My Brother George and myself went this morning to pay our respects to Col: Petrie on board the Swift Cruizer. — We found him busy preparing to go on shore at Tutacorin, and having invited us to accompany him we did so accordingly. — We all dined with the Officer Commanding at the Fort – and returned on board in the Evening. — At Tutacorin we first learnt the exact amount of Colonel Stuart’s Force, and the names and description of the Corps of which it is composed. — As from this information it appears that no part of the 36th. Regt. is to be employed on this Expedition, Col: Petrie agreeably to his kind promise has written to the Officer commanding the Forces at Madras to allow George Jarvis to serve as a Volunteer on the present Service with the 77th. Regiment, and with which he has directed George should in the mean time do Duty. —
Tuesday. — Immediately after Breakfast this morning, I went on board the Swift to see Col: Petrie, and had the pleasure of being then introduced to Colonel Dugald Campbell of the Madras Native Cavalry, who had come on board to see his old friend Col: Petrie.
Saturday ! — My Brother George and myself were this morning introduced by our friend Col: Petrie to our new Commander in chief Colonel Stuart who appears to be a pleasant gentlemanlike man. —
Sunday! — The Flank Companies of the 3 King’s Regiments having been formed into a Battalion under the command of Capt. Barbut of the 73d. Regt., were joined this morning by the Bbay Grenadr. Battn. of Sepoys under Capt. McDonald, marched this day at Noon under the command of Lt. Colonel Petrie to take Post 12 miles in advance of the rest of the Army.
Wednesday — This is Halting Day. —
I went to call on Lt. Col: Petrie and my Brother George at the Camp of the Flank Battalion, about a mile in advance from our Ground, immediately as soon as I had Breakfasted, accompanied by Doctr. Anderson and Lieut. Shaw, – and staid for a Couple of Hours there.
Feby. 18. At 2. P.M. I was sent for by Colonel Stuart to come to speak to him at his Quarters in the Fort, where he had removed yesterday.
Upon my waiting on him, he was pleased to say – that – from the very high character he had heard of me from Lt. Col: Petrie and others, he was desirous to entrust me with the Command of a Detachment…
Feby. 19. After getting my Instructions and taking Leave of Colonel Stuart – and my good friend Lt. Col: Petrie, I returned Home to my Quarters and took an early hasty Dinner with my messmates…
Saturday. — Nothing Extraordinary. I wrote Letters of this date to Colonel Stuart and Lt. Col: Petrie.
Tuesday! — I received Letters this day from my friend Colonel Kerr at Bombay, by which I am grieved to find that my beloved wife has for some time back been in very delicate health. — This alarms me very much – and has induced me to write to Colonel Stuart to request that I may be relieved from my command here as soon as the nature of the Service will admit of it, as, Domestic Concerns of the utmost importance requires my going to Bombay as soon as possible. — I wrote at same time to my worthy friend Colonel Petrie explaining to him more fully my reasons for wishing to go to Bombay at this particular period. —
Thursday! — I received most pleasing and very flattering Letters today from Colonel Stuart, in which he expresses himself highly pleased with every part of my conduct during the period of my Command at Point de Galle. […]
I had the pleasure of receiving very satisfactory Letters from my friend Lt. Col: Petrie also by this day’s Post.
[Mar: 21.] I then took my leave of Colonel Stuart, and went to call on Lieut. Colonel Petrie – whom I was happy to find had been lately appointed Commandant of Columbo. — After remaining a short time with Colonel Petrie I visited my friends of the 77th.
Mar: 22. I dined today with Colonel Petrie, along with Dr. Anderson and other 77th. Friends. —
Mar: 25. I dined at Col: Petrie’s along with Capt. Whitelocke – Dr. Anderson – and several other officers of the 77th.
Monday. — I took a long walk early this morning through the Town of Columbo and along the Ramparts of the Forts to examine and look at the Works and noble fine Guns mounted on them. — men belonging to the 7th. Battn. Madras Native Infantry, Commanded by Capt. Bowzer, executed this day at Noon for Mutiny against their Officers. — The whole of the Troops were under arms on the occasion drawn up in 3 sides of a Square on the Exercising Ground near the Fort. — I commanded the Left of the 77th. Regt. on this awful occasion. — Lt. Col: Petrie, as the Commandant of the Garrison, commanded the whole of the Troops under Arms. —
I dined today with Colonel Petrie, who had a large Party at Dinner. —
Mar: 30. As soon as we had broke up from Table at Colonel Stuart’s, and I had taken my leave of him, I called on my good worthy friend Lieut. Colonel Petrie, who had Captain Grant and several other officers of the Left Wing of the 77th. to dine with him. — I sat with him for near an Hour – and at half past 8,O’Clock, we took our leave of our much esteemed and beloved commanding officer and embarked on board the Jane; we were all very sensibly affected at parting with this most respectable and amiable man, more especially as we have little chance of ever serving under him again – the accounts of his not being confirmed as our Major having proved but too true. —
Ap1. 17! I wrote Letters of this date to my friend Doctor Anderson at Calicut, and to Lt. Colonel Petrie, Capt. Gray, and Lieut. Gray of the 77th. Regt. at Colombo.
Ap1. 21. I wrote also Letters of this date to Lt. Col: Petrie, Lieut. Walker, and Lieut. Gray at Colombo; and to Doctr. Anderson at Calicut. —
[NOTE: There were no further entries after May of 1796, and George Petrie would have died in August of that year. Lachlan Macquarie’s wife Jane seems to have died in July, just before George, since Macquarie says in Sept of 1800 that he’s been in mourning for her by wearing black crepe on his left arm for four years and two months.]
[Macquarie, Lachlan. Journal No.3: 29 December 1794 – 27 September 1799]
Below is another item published in the Gentleman’s Magazine of April 1797. It gives a death date of 1797, but I suspect, since there was no day or month given, that the year was pulled from the edition of the magazine. It definitely appears that George died on August 25, 1796, and that he was around age 45.
This item tells us that he died of a prolonged illness, compounded by ‘disappointment in the line of his promotion.’
||Place of death
||At Colombo, in the island of Ceylon, after a long and severe illness, contracted by the fatigues of actual service in the field, and increased by disappointment in the line of his promotion, Lieut. Col. George Petrie, of the 72d Regiment, universally lamented by the army with whom he had served with distinguished reputation, and who, by their general regret for his loss, paid an honourable tribute to his reputation as an officer and a gentleman.
“Young men wanting to hold any sort of official position needed support from someone with “an interest”, which the military historian Richard Holmes has described as a “rich mixture of patronage, influence, family and regimental connection, the comradeship of campaign and arm of service, debts for past favours and sureties for future help.””
[from The Letters of Captain John Orrok,” McBrayne, Alison, Troubador Publishing Ltd., 2008, p. 6, quoting from Sahib: The British Soldier in India 1750 – 1914, Holmes, Richard, London 2005, p. 189]
George had some military connections through the Colvilles. Vice-Admiral Alexander Colville (7th Lord of Culross) would have been his uncle, and John Colville (6th Lord of Culross) would have been his grandfather. (Hon Anne Colville, daughter of the 8th Lord of Culross, who married Captain James Forsyth on April 19, 1802, was probably the ‘Miss Colvill’ mentioned in George Petrie’s will.)
I don’t believe that these military connections did George much good in his career, possibly because the only high-ranking Colville was in the navy? Also, that high-ranking Colville (Alexander) died in 1770, during George’s early career in the military. George was born ca 1751.
Vice-Admiral Alexander Colville, 7th Lord of Culross (also spelled Colvill) (28 February 1717 – 21 May 1770) served as the Commodore and Commander in Chief of His Majesty’s Ships and Vessels in North America from 1757 to 1762. [Wikipedia]
The 6th Lord Colville of Culross would have been George’s grandfather. George’s mother was Elizabeth Colville, who married Robert Petrie…
John [Colville], de jure later de facto 6th Lord Colville of Culross
mar. 1716 Elizabeth Johnston (b. c. 1701; d. 3 Mar 1747/8)
Hon Alexander Colville, later 7th Lord Colville of Culross
Charles Colville (dvp. an infant)
Lieut Hon George Colville, served in Col Gooch’s Regiment in America (b. 1720; dvp. of fever in New York 1739)
Hon John Colville, later 8th Lord Colville of Culross
Capt Hon Charles Colville (b. 21 Apr 1726; d. 15 Mar 1763)
Capt Hon James Colville RN, lost at sea when HMS Sunderland foundered off Pondicherry (b. 1734; d. 21 Jan 1761)
Hon Margaret Colville, mar. Capt Paul Castlemaine, of Horsley, co. Gloucester, and had issue
Hon Mary Colville (dvp. an infant 4 Apr 1731)
Hon Elizabeth Colville, mar. Robert Petrie, and had issue (George)
died 20 Apr 1741
succeeded by son
an Ensign at the Battle of Malplaquet 1709; applied to vote at the election of Scottish Peers 1722 but was refused on the ground of the peerage not being on the Union Roll; his claim to the peerage as heir male of the 1st Lord Colville of Culross was acknowledged by the House of Lords 27 May 1723; at the Siege of Gibraltar 1727; Lt Col in the war with Spain 1739, during which he died in an epidemic in the transport ships off Cartagena (in present-day Colombia).
This is George Petrie’s mother’s death registration–she died on April 30, 1754, when George was likely around age three or four…
They group the April, 1754, deaths by cause, but I don’t think we have anything to tell us what Elizabeth died of. It looks like a ‘C’ in the margin beside her name, but whether this signifies cause of death is unclear. Even if it did, would the ‘C’ be for ‘Childbed’ or ‘Consumption’ or…? You can see the list of causes on the page; among them are small pox, suddenly, and the last one on the list looks like water on the head.
This is a close-up of Elizabeth Petrie (née Colville) on the registry:
“Mrs. Elizabeth Colvil, sp (spouse) to Robert Pettre of Invernethie, 30th.”
Interesting that her name is given prominence by the larger characters used, and the obvious attempt at calligraphy. The remainder of the record is cursive writing in the same hand as other entries on the page. Perhaps the registrar was made aware that Elizabeth was ‘Hon.’ Elizabeth Colville (a.k.a. Colvill), daughter of the 6th Lord Colville of Culross.
I’ll show (below) the family tree I’ve been working from. I’ve added some printed information to it. Again, I’ll just say that I doubt the existence of Margaret MacDonald, alleged wife of Lieutenant-Colonel George Petrie.
I also believe that William of Rosserk’s SISTER Elizabeth may be incorrect. If Elizabeth’s name was drawn from the pages of the family Bible, it may be William of Rosserk’s WIFE Elizabeth that we’re seeing here, and she should be shown paired with him above the names of their TEN children (some of whom are missing from this chart).
William’s sister Christian/Christina was also missing.
I’m pretty sure Peter Petrie’s and Jane Thompson’s (a.k.a. Jean Thomson’s) dates are incorrect. I think that they were born later than 1790 and 1791 (possibly 1796 or 1797), and he died in 1844, not 1846. Her year of death is correct. They did not live in Newburgh, but very close to it. She WAS buried at Killanley churchyard in Ireland, and he was buried in Creich churchyard in Fife, Scotland.
I can find no evidence of Peter having a brother Alexander who died young. Where did that come from? They must have taken it from somewhere. Perhaps they saw Peter’s name shown in a document together with ALEXANDER GRAY’s name. Alexander Gray was one of the two executors of George Petrie’s will, and HE was given the responsibility of administering the funds (500 rupees) George left in a bequest to his unborn child (Peter?) by ‘his girl’ Mary. If Alexander subsequently took the child (assuming it was Peter) to Scotland, and their names appeared together on a ship’s list or immigration document or something, perhaps the assumption was that Alexander was Peter’s brother and not his guardian? It might also be that Alexander Gray took over the care of Peter and had a son he named Alexander, who might then have been assumed to be Peter’s natural brother. These are wild guesses. I have some more research to do.
In Chapters of Life, Sir Charles says:
“More remarkable than George Petrie was his wife, Margaret. She was born in Canada in 1750 and died in 1857. My father was five at the time of her death, and he remembered her description of Wolfe’s capture of Quebec. This event had naturally impressed itself upon the old lady’s memory, for she was a MacDonald by birth, and her father had managed to escape to Canada after fighting for the Stuarts in the Forty-Five. […] My great-great grandfather met his future wife when he was released after the War of American Independence, and sent to Canada.”
Margaret may not have existed at all (age 107?). I don’t believe she was George’s wife–at least he does not seem to be aware of her, and since she supposedly lived a very long time, he ought to have been aware. I quote the passage above because it throws further doubt on Sir Charles’s credibility. How many children of five years old or less (his father was age five at her supposed death) would remember later, as an adult, an account of Wolfe’s capture of Quebec told to them by an elderly woman? That, by itself, stretches the boundaries of belief.
Also, where was Margaret living at the time of the 1841 census in Scotland? George, her alleged husband, would have been dead–we all agree on that, no matter who is telling it: Sir Charles Petrie, the writers of the family tree in 1978, or me. So, Margaret, if she existed, would have been a widow and likely living with her one-and-only child, Peter, at Ballenbreich Farm in the Parish of Flisk at the time of the 1841 Scottish census. And yet the census-taker does not record her presence there.
It seems more than likely the elderly woman remembered by Sir Charles’s father when he was five years old (assuming he DID remember an elderly woman) would have been Peter’s wife, Jane Thompson (Thomson), who emigrated with the rest of the family to Sligo, Ireland, in 1851-ish, and who may have been living with her son Alexander, Sir Charles’s grandfather. Jane would know nothing about General Wolfe or Quebec, so that was pure fantasy. She died in 1860, when Sir Charles’s father was likely eight years old–he was born in 1852.
I don’t know how to account for all of this family history misinformation told by a professional historian, and the writer of many, many books.
Back to solid ground…Peter Petrie, for a fact, is my 3x great-grandfather. He would have been Sir Charles’s great-grandfather. Sir Charles does not mention him in his book at all. Sadly, there might be some snobbery at work, here. Peter Petrie’s occupation at the time of the 1841 Scottish census was ‘Agricultural Labourer.’
That’s not very romantic or notable, is it.
That would not enhance one’s social standing in ‘certain circles.’
Additionally, perhaps Sir Charles did not want to call attention to Peter for other reasons. If Peter was Lieutenant Colonel George Petrie’s son by a Sri Lankan woman, he might have been not only illegitimate but mixed-race.
Below is the 1841 census page showing Peter Pettrie [sic] and family, which at that time includes wife Jane (née Thompson), daughter Christian (a.k.a. Christina), and granddaughter Ann. The ages shown for 15-year-old Christian and two-year-old Ann appear to be correct, since they match with my other sources. The adults’ ages are probably rounded-down a few years.
This zooms-in on the headings on the census page, so that you can identify the meaning of the ‘F’ (foreign born).
In Scotland, enumeration duties were carried out by the official schoolmaster in each parish and the sheriff deputies (for counties) and provosts (for burghs). As I’ve said previously, they were instructed to round down ages to the nearest five for anyone over the age of 15. Peter and Jane’s actual ages were therefore likely to be somewhere between 40 and 45 (which means that they would have been born between 1796 and 1801).
Balinbreich (or ‘Ballinbreich’) Farm seems to have been some sort of collective farming operation with possibly a number of cottages on the site for farm workers. It appears to be something similar even today. I visited there in 2014, and took some photos…
What a contrast to see the crumbling, ancient castle juxtaposed in this photo with the sturdy 19th century house. The castle, with the remains of its round tower, is in the process of being reclaimed by nature, eroded by time and the elements, while the house is immaculate, intact, standing its ground. One is maintained and alive, and the other is derelict and dying. One shelters its humans, and the other keeps its ghosts.
Positioned on the south bank of the river Tay in Fife, Ballinbreich estate became the property through marriage of the Leslie family around 1312, although records show that as early as 1160 the land originally belonged to Orm, son of Hugh of Abernethy.
The name Ballinbreich is derived from an ancient Celtic name and is a corruption of “Balan-breac”, meaning “town of trouts” – most appropriate with the castle overlooking the river Tay with its reputation for fishing.
The Leslies began to build a castle soon after they took over the estate, using an L-plan layout with a typical tower and internal stair at the re-entrant angle. A curtain wall was then built to create a rectangular courtyard.
The castle was considerably modified and extended in the 16th century. Mary Queen of Scots, on one of the many tours of her realm, visited the Leslies in 1565.
The later ‘manor house,’ as I’ll call it, is just visible at the far right-hand side of the photo above showing the cottages (it’s set back, and behind them).
This map (below) was on the internet, advertising woodland for sale, and I’m making use of it since the arrow points towards Ballinbreich. That’s the River Tay running alongside. There are further maps below to give you a better idea of where this is. (We’re working backwards, from the specific to the general…sorry.)
The following is an old Map of Fife parishes, 1855-1892, with ‘star’ markers at Kirkcaldy and Flisk. I put those there, to show that my husband’s family comes from an area not-too-distant from my Scottish ancestors. We’ve been married for over forty years, but I’ve only discovered this recently. He is straight from ‘the old country’—born in Lochgelly, Scotland (Fife)—and my ancestry places my family origins, as far back as I can chart them at the moment, in Fife as well.
Can’t see Lochgelly on this old parish map, but I believe it is only 11 km distant from Kirkcaldy, which you CAN see on the map. Lochgelly and Creich (where my great-great-great grandfather Peter Petrie is buried) are approximately 40 km apart. You’ll see Dunbog (near Flisk) on this map, and can compare it to the previous map showing Ballinbreich. Creich is adjacent to Dunbog and Flisk. Peter and Jane Petrie’s children were born in the parish of Flisk…probably my great-great-grandfather included, although I don’t have his birth record for proof.
My husband and I met when he came to Canada. I was born in Toronto. Funny old world.
This map will show you where Fife is in Scotland…
I haven’t been able to find a birth record for William (my great-great grandfather, b. 1819), nor for his sister Elizabeth, assuming she did in fact exist. However, I did find his sister Margaret, who would have been age 20 at the time of the Scottish census of 1841; his sister Christian/Christina (age 15 in 1841), and brother Alexander (age 17 at the time of the census in 1841). The 1841 census was time-stamped for June 6, 1841, so Alexander was a couple of months away from his 18th birthday. [Side note: The population of Scotland on 6 June 1841 was 2,620,184.]
Note that in the birth records below, Jane Thompson’s name is shown as either ‘Jane Thomson’ or ‘Jean Thomson.’ I believe that ‘Jean’ was the Scottish version of ‘Jane’ and that ‘Thomson’ was the more common spelling for ‘Thompson’ in Scotland.
Peter and Jane’s daughter Margaret (born two years after William) is first:
Margaret Petrie, b. Flisk, Fife, Jan 8, 1821
Christening Date 14 Jan 1821
Christening Place FLISK, FIFE, SCOTLAND
Birth Date 08 Jan 1821
Father’s Name Peter Pettry
Mother’s Name Jane Thomson
Then we have Christian, a.k.a. Christina…
Christian Petrie, b. Jan 29, 1826
Christening Date 29 Jan 1826
Christening Place FLISK, FIFE, SCOTLAND
Birth Date 03 Jan 1826
Father’s Name Peter Pettry
Mother’s Name Jean Thomson
And this is Alexander, later ‘of Carrowcarden’ and father of the first baronet Petrie:
Christening Date 24 Aug 1823
Christening Place FLISK, FIFE, SCOTLAND
Birth Date 21 Aug 1823
Father’s Name Peter Pettry
Mother’s Name Jean Thomson
Since Margaret didn’t marry George Dow until later in the census year (the marriage was December 4, 1841), she may have been living away from home at the time of the Scottish census on June 6, 1841. Alexander was also not shown to be living with his parents at that time, although he wasn’t quite 18 years old.
We know where their brother, my great-great grandfather William was, however.
The 1841 census captured his whereabouts in early June of that year. He was married and living on Crichton Street in Dundee with his wife, Elizabeth, née Williamson. They’d left their two-year old daughter, Ann, behind with her grandparents at that time, as we saw from the census record for Peter and Jane Pettrie. Note that the Petrie surname is spelled differently by the census-taker for William and Elizabeth.
Yes, I realize that it was unnecessary to have stars beside their names, when there are only two names. The stars are a carry-over from the full page of the census, and I was too lazy to remove them.
William’s occupation is shown as ‘Fish Agent’ and his and Elizabeth’s ages are shown to be 20. Again, the enumerators of the 1841 census had instructions to round down the ages of anyone over age 15 to the nearest five. William was born in 1819, so he may have been 22 in 1841, or near to it.
Below are a few late-19th century photos of Dundee, and the first one shows the Old Custom House on Crichton Street in 1876. Crichton was the street where William and Elizabeth were living in June of 1841.
To fulfill my obligations for using this image, I must provide the url: http://canmore.org.uk/collection/1168411.
Another couple of 19th-century images of Dundee, in the vicinity of where William and Elizabeth Petrie were staying in 1841…
Alexander Wilson was the photographer recording the changing face of buildings in Dundee from the 1870s to 1905. The photo above is of Crichton Street, again, and shows a fish merchant and fruiterer business named Lyall. That name is a connection to the Petries, since Alexander Petrie, son of Peter Petrie (brother to my great-great grandfather William) married a Margaret Lyall (or Lyell). I don’t know if this is a relative of hers.
Remember that the census page showing William’s father Peter and his family included little Ann, who was their granddaughter (William and Elizabeth’s first child).
What was going on at this time for William and Elizabeth to have left their two-year-old daughter with her grandparents while they went to Dundee? At the time of the 1841 census on June 6, 1841, Elizabeth was expecting another child, and very soon. William Jr. was due to make his arrival on June 14—just eight days later.
Leaving little Ann with William’s father and mother on the farm, where William’s 15-year-old sister Christian/Christina would be an extra help to his mother, must have been a necessity.
Also, given that Elizabeth would likely be in Dundee for the birth of William, I’m wondering whether she had female relatives there to help her…her mother or sisters. That clue may be helpful for researching the Williamsons, although it’s probably a common name, and Dundee is a fair-sized place. I suspect it will be difficult to identify which Williamsons are her family.
As the family Bible tells us, the births of William Jr. (1841), Jean (1843), and Alexander (my great-grandfather, born 1845) were all registered in the Parish of Dundee. Ann’s birth was registered in the Parish of Erroll. (The full Bible page is further down in this article.)
The next ten years are a blank (for me), but William and Elizabeth continued to build on their family while, as I imagine, William increased his knowledge of the fish trade, as well as farming.
I have to say that this man, my great-great grandfather William, was a dynamo. No wonder he burnt out at age 65; he was indefatigable in the lifespan given to him, and possessed intelligence, boundless imagination and relentless drive.
We may not be of royal ancestry, but I suspect that when anyone presented obstacles to my great-great grandfather’s aims and ambitions, he would certainly have been a royal pain.
William and Elizabeth had two children (Ann and William Jr.) by 1841, four years into their marriage, and continued having a child approximately every two years thereafter: Jane was born two years after William Jr., in 1843, Alexander (my great-grandfather) was born two years later, in 1845, Elizabeth two years after Alexander, in 1847, and Peter two years after that, in 1849.
Then there was a three-year gap, likely because the family moved to Sligo, Ireland, in 1851. John was the next child born, and the first to be born in Ireland, in 1852. George was born in 1855, Thomas in 1857, and the last child, Jessie, was born in 1861.
So, six children were born to William and Elizabeth in Scotland, and four in Ireland, for a total of ten children. For so many to survive into adulthood was quite an accomplishment in those days. Infant mortality was quite high throughout the Victorian era, and young-adult mortality not much better.
As mentioned, William’s father, Peter, died in 1844 at Ballinbreich farm in Fife. He was likely somewhere around age 45 to 48.
I might make a few guesses here, at what might have transpired after Peter’s death.
First, Peter died January 12, 1844, and was buried in Creich churchyard on January 15, 1844—that part is NOT a guess. The death registry entry is below:
I visited the Creich churchyard looking for Peter, but the church was a ruin, and many gravestones no longer bore legible inscriptions:
The ruins of the church are in the background of this first photo:
This next photo shows how badly the tombstones have deteriorated…
You can see the problem. Unless my great-great-great grandfather pushed his stone aside and waved at me, there was no chance of finding him.
I have since written to the people who have the administration of Creich churchyard (Dunfermline Crematorium) to see if they can tell me which grave is his, and they answered that their records do not go back to 1844.
Since Peter died at Ballinbreich, he and wife Jane had apparently continued to live there in the three years between the 1841 census and his death in 1844.
Peter was in his mid-to-late 40s at the time of his death, so the likelihood is that he died of an illness—unless there had been some injury and infection, also possible.
We might also assume that if Peter was ill or injured prior to his death, he would have been unable to work to support the family. We know that daughter Christian/Christina was around age 18 in 1844, and that she did not marry Thomas Bruce until September 12 of 1851 (making her 25 years old at her marriage). She may have still been living at home during her father’s last illness (or injury?). Her sister, Margaret, had married George Dow in Dunbog, Fife, on December 4, 1841. Margaret would have been 20 years old at her marriage.
Dunbog is a small parish very near Glenduckie, and bordered on the east by Flisk and Creich, so Margaret did not live at any great distance from her parents’ home–between 5 to 9 miles—although no doubt it seemed a lot further at the time. The map below shows the location of Creich, where Peter Petrie is buried, and Dunbog, where his daughter Margaret and her husband, George Dow, lived.
I thought at first that since Ann (William and Elizabeth’s young daughter, b. 1839) was living with her grandparents, Peter and Jane, at the time of the 1841 census, there was a possibility that perhaps William and Elizabeth returned to the farm with their young family during Peter’s last illness. Their third child, Jane, was born in 1843, so three of Peter’s grandchildren were born before he died. I imagine it would have been difficult for Elizabeth to cope with three children four years and under in an age without disposable diapers and convenience foods—so having her mother-in-law and sister-in-law’s help would have been invaluable. Peter and Jane’s other children had not as yet started their families.
However, the family Bible indicates that William and Elizabeth’s children were born in Dundee, so it seems that they were not living with, or near to, Peter and Jane during those years. It’s around 12 and a half miles from Dundee to Creich, but with a water crossing (the Firth of Tay) that would have presented an additional obstacle. Perhaps Elizabeth had family in Dundee to help her?
Peter and Jane’s other son, Alexander (later ‘of Carrowcarden,’ my great-great-uncle, and the father of the first baronet Petrie), might have returned to the farm to help with supporting the family. He did not appear to have been living at home at the time of the 1841 census, although he was only 18 at that time. In 1844, at the time of his father’s death, he was probably not married. He likely married Margaret Lyell in 1845/6, since their first child was born in 1847. She was also named Ann, as was William and Elizabeth’s first daughter—which inclines me to think that possibly ‘Ann’ was an important name in their lineage…Peter or Jane’s mother, perhaps? It might be a clue to the earlier generation, whose identities are not presently known.
Alexander and Margaret continued to have their eight children at two-year intervals, for the most part.
Both of Peter’s sons, William (my great-great grandfather) and Alexander (my great-great uncle), would likely have become involved in their parents’ lives during this time, and no doubt benefitted from seeing the farming operation at Ballinbreich. Farming was an important skill for building their lives and fortunes in Sligo after emigration there.
I believe we can say that it must have become evident to Peter’s sons that continuing in their father’s occupation by working as farmers in an established collective would not advance their wealth or standing over time. Also, it may have been apparent, in that time and in that place, that openings in the fishing trade that William was interested in pursuing would have been thin on the ground, due to the fact that many preceding claims on resources would have existed in the more populated areas, like Dundee, at that time. The population of Dundee was around 56,000 in the early 1840’s.
My great-grandfather Alexander (who later went to Newfoundland) was born in Dundee in 1845, a year after his grandfather Peter died.
As I mentioned, the potato famine caused not only deaths but migrations from places in the north of Scotland and Ireland, so opportunities now existed for enterprising people to move into those depopulated areas.
The family migration from Scotland to Sligo, Ireland, in 1851, happened seven years after Peter’s death. I believe that those remaining seven years in Scotland were fundamental to the family’s success in Ireland after they left. William would have been 25 years old when his father died in 1844. His brother, Alexander, would have been 21. When the family left for Ireland seven years later, William would have been 32, and Alexander, 28.
They were both well-seasoned young men at that point in time, at the peak of their strength. Both were married, with families of their own, and their sisters Margaret and Christian were also married. (The mysterious youngest sister, Elizabeth, is nothing more than a question mark for me.)
This migration to another country was a big move, and pretty much all of the family went, including Peter Petrie’s widow, Jane (nee Thomson or Thompson). William and Elizabeth brought their six children (four more would be born in Ireland); Alexander and Margaret brought their three children (fourth child Jane was born in 1854—I assume in Ireland—and they would have another four children in Ireland); Christian (Christina) Petrie, who married Thomas Bruce in 1851, had four children in Ireland; Margaret Petrie, who married George Dow in 1841, had at least three children in Ireland, the youngest born in 1857. It seems likely that Margaret and George Dow would have had other children in their first sixteen years of marriage, but I don’t have a record of them.
This migration of the Petrie family ‘en masse’ seems to indicate that Peter’s early death drew the family together. Their fortunes and their futures likely became even more tightly bound to one another while they assisted their parents, so that when the proposal was made (by William, would be my guess) to leave Scotland for Ireland, they all left together.
The following is a page from the family Bible, recording births and birthplaces of various family members. (That’s my own scribbling on the left-hand side of the photocopy.)
I suspect that the handwriting on this page is largely that of my great-great grandfather, William Petrie (b. 1819). Compare the written letter ‘P’ in the Bible record to the letter ‘P’s’ on these signatures from legal documents:
The births recorded on the Bible page are these:
Ann Pettrie Born 1839 August 19 (?) Registered in the Parish of Erroll
William Pettre Born 1841, June 14th Registered in the Parish of Dundee
Jean Pettrie Born 1843 Mar (?) 7th, Registered in the Parish of Dundee
Alexander Pettrie Born 1845 21st Feb Registered in the Parish of Dundee
Elizabeth Pettrie Born 1847 Registered in the Parish of Erroll
Peter Petrie Born Erroll 1849
John Petrie Born 17 November 1852 Sligo Ireland 1853 (s/b 1852)
George Petrie Born 7 May, 1855 at Townfortis Farm (near?) Sligo Ireland
Thomas Petrie Born 30 August at Townfortis Farm (near?) Sligo Ireland 1857
Now, a RECAP…
Peter Petrie, parentage yet to be determined. Born ca 1796; died 1844.
Agricultural labourer, Ballinbreich Farm, County Flisk, Scotland
Peter married Jane (Thomson) Petrie, (they were my 3x great-grandparents)
Their FIVE children were:
William my great-great grandfather (b. 1819, married Elizabeth Williamson)
Margaret (b. 1821, married George Dow)
Alexander (b. 1823, married Margaret Lyell)
Christian/Christina (b. 1826, married Thomas Bruce)
Elizabeth (b. 1827?)
William and Elizabeth (Williamson) Petrie, (my great-great grandparents)
Their TEN children were:
Ann (b. 1839, married George Thompson)
William Jr. (b. 1841–he wrote the letter to Georgina–married Elizabeth Jane Kelly)
Jane/Jeanie (b. 1843, married Peter Robertson)
Alexander (my great-grandfather, b. 1845. married Georgina Campbell, née Bain)
Elizabeth (b. 1847, married George Dewar)
Peter (b. 1849, married Susanna Higgins)
John (b. 1852, married Belinda Anna Taylor)
George (b. 1855, married Harriet Ann Couser)
Thomas (b. 1857, did not marry, died in Australia)
Jessie (b. 1861, married Arthur Evans Patterson)
Alexander and Georgina (Bain) Petrie, my great-grandparents
Their SEVEN children:
William Thomas (b. 1875, married Jessie Soper)
George Alexander (b. 1877, died very young)
John Albert (my grandfather, b. 1878, married Annie Emmeline Bartlett)
Samuel Kelly (b. 1880, died very young)
Ethel Bain (b. 1884, married Arthur Gager)
‘Lizzie’ (b. ? died very young)
Annie Daisy (b. 1887, died age 25 in 1912)
William Sr., “William of Rosserk,” born in 1819, started out as a ‘fish agent’ as noted in the 1841 census, when he was 22 years old, and at that time about to have a second child, William Jr., (who wrote the letter to ‘Georgy’ many years later).
When, within the next few years after the 1841 census, his father Peter became ill (or injured?) William may have returned to his father’s home frequently, to help his parents. Since his children were mostly born in Dundee, however, it seems that he did not go to live at his parents’ home during this time. His younger brother, Alexander, may have been in a better position to help them, since he was unattached at that time. Still, no doubt William was involved in what was happening at Ballinbreich farm just prior to his father’s death, and he may have learned the farming skills he used with such success later in Ireland at that point in time. Alternatively, he may have learned his farming skills in his early life, since he would have been raised on the farm. My guess, however, is that the farm chores in his early life would have been just that—chores–and that any original thinking on farming and land development would have happened later.
William and his wife Elizabeth had another four children in Scotland after 1841, at two-year intervals. They already had Ann (1839) and William (1841). Jane or Jeanie (1843) came along next. These were all the grandchildren that Peter would see before his death in 1844.
My great-grandfather Alexander was the next child born to William and Elizabeth, in February of 1845. His grandfather Peter had died the year before his birth.
Then Elizabeth was born in 1847, and Peter in 1849. That was all of the children born to William and Elizabeth in Scotland—six of the ten. The other four would be born in Ireland.
There was a three-year gap after William and Elizabeth’s son Peter, since this period marked the migration of the family to Ireland.
John was the first child born to them in Sligo, in 1852. George followed him in 1855, and Thomas in 1857. The last child born to William and Elizabeth was Jessie, in 1861.
Taking the family to Sligo vicinity from Scotland appears to have been a fortuitous decision. There were no doubt some difficult times in the beginning, but William Sr. was not long in gaining a foothold and making his presence known.
We’ve come full circle at this point, to where William started fishing operations in Sligo area, and rubbed the local gentry up the wrong way. I’ve covered his career at the beginning of this article.
Seems a bit back-to-front, I’ll grant you! Hopefully you can piece it all together.
I’ll just review my great-great-grandfather William’s family at this point, with a bit more information on each, and then take you to the end-stage of his life.
Again, William of Rosserk (Sr.) was born in 1819, likely in the Parish of Flisk, in Fife. He married Elizabeth Williamson, b. ca 1821, on September 2, 1837, when he was 18 and she was around 16, and these are their 10 children:
Anne, born (Aug 19?) 1839 in the Parish of Erroll, Scotland, and died in 1866. She married George Thompson, and had two daughters; Elizabeth was born in Sligo, 1862, and Christina was born in 1864. The girls were very young at the time of their mother’s death in 1866. She would have been age 27. (Childbirth a factor?)
William Jr, b. (June 19, 1841) 1841, Parish of Dundee, Scotland, d. Nov. 22, 1894 (of Bright’s disease). He married Elizabeth Jane Kelly, daughter of Dr. Samuel Kelly, on March 31, 1861. Their children were Margaret Jane, b. 1862; Elizabeth, b. 1864; Alexander, b. 1868; Anne, b. 1869; Christina, b. 1871; John, b. 1873; Samuel George, b. 1876; and Jessie Ethel, b. 1878.
Jane (or ‘Jeanie’),b. April 27, 1843, Parish of Dundee, Scotland. She married Peter Robertson, and, according to a note in the family Bible, “Jeanie…Died at Towneyfortis, the residence of her father, on Wednesday, 29th July, 1868, at half past four o’clock in the afternoon, also her infant baby Elizabeth Robertson died on Thursday morning the 30th July, 1868, aged ten weeks. The mother aged 25 years.” My understanding is that mother and baby daughter were buried together, having died within 24 hours of one another.
Alexander (my great-grandfather), b. February 21, 1845, Parish of Dundee, Scotland, d. Bay of Islands, Newfoundland, July 29, 1892. He married Georgina Campbell, née Bain (b. 1846, d. May 31, 1924), of Wick, Caithness, Scotland on March 31, 1875, in the Bay of Islands, Newfoundland. They had seven children: William Thomas, b. 1875, d, 1946, George Alexander, b. Jan. 24, 1877, died in infancy, sometime after May 27, 1877; John Albert, b. Dec. 22, 1878, d. 1956 (my grandfather); Samuel Kelly, b. Sept. 22, 1880, died in infancy, sometime after October 31, 1880—he and Ethel were both christened by Rev. J. Curling); Ethel Bain, b. 1884, d. 1932, age 47 or 48; ‘Lizzie’, b. ?, died in infancy; and Annie Daisy, b. 1887, d. 1912, age 25.
Elizabeth, b. (Aug.?) 1847, Parish of Errol, Scotland; d. 1872, age 25. Married George Dewar, and had one child, Annie Jannetta Ness (b. Mar. 4?, 1872). As we can see, but without having exact dates, Elizabeth died the same year her baby was born. It may well be that Elizabeth died of complications of childbirth. Her sister Anne died in 1866 at age 27; her sister Jeannie died 1868, age 25. While Anne’s death does not associate her death with childbirth, it seems that Anne had her two daughters two years apart: 1862 and 1864. That she died two years after her last child may indicate that there had been an unsuccessful birth of a third child.
Peter, b. (Aug.?) 1849, Parish of Erroll, Scotland, d. 1907, Ballina. Married Susanna Bruce, nee Higgins, widow of his first cousin, Thomas Bruce, in Ballina. They had eight children. Susanna also had two children from her first marriage to Thomas Bruce. I’ll refer you to the family tree for their children.
*Within the next year or so after Peter’s birth, the family moved to Sligo, Ireland, and the first child born there is John…
John, b. November 17, 1852, Sligo, Ireland, married Belinda (‘Bella’) Anna Taylor, 1878; one child, Elizabeth Jessie, b. 1875; he died at Rosserk, July 29, 1882, age 28. His newspaper birth announcement is below. I cannot find a Petrie relative with the name ‘John’, so either there was a relative on his mother’s side (the Williamsons) named John–or perhaps (and this may be a bit fanciful), John was named for the street on which they lived at the time of his birth?
When one is welcoming one’s seventh child shortly after arriving in a new country, perhaps not only the sparsity of family names is a factor, but also one’s diminished attention to such details. MIGHT one look out the window at the street sign and think that that’s as good a name as any for one’s latest offspring?
John is of particular interest to me, since my great-grandfather Alexander named his third son, ‘John Albert.’ And that third son of Alexander and Georgina, born in December of 1878, was my grandfather. So I think we know where the name ‘John’ came from, but ‘Albert’? Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s consort, died in 1861, and coincidentally was born in 1819, the same year as Alexander’s father William, but I can’t believe that that’s where the name came from. Georgina’s brothers were James, David and Donald, and her father was George, so ‘Albert’ did not come from the Bain side. The source for ‘Albert’ is yet to be discovered. Perhaps they just liked the name.
I don’t have John’s cause of death, but it’s perplexing that he died so early, at age 28. His three sisters dying in their 20’s makes sense, sadly, given the mortality rate for child-bearing women, but John’s cause of death I just don’t know.
George, b. (May 7?) 1855, Towneyfortis (or Tonafortis), Sligo, Ireland; d. 1927, age 72. He married Harriet Ann Couser (1855-1947), and most of our Irish cousins in Sligo vicinity today descend from George and Harriet. All their children were born in Ballina, and there was George Norman, b. 1899; Robert William, b. 1900; Jessie, b. 1902; Arthur Patterson, b. 1904; Alexander, b. 1906; and Joseph Couser, b. 1908.
Thomas, b. (Aug 30?) 1857, Townafortes (or Tonafortis), Sligo, Ireland, died in Ballarat, Australia, (near Melbourne), in 1927, at age 70. He did not marry. This is the brother who supposedly held my great-grandfather Alexander’s Sligo property in his name, for the benefit of Alexander’s family. Since Alexander and Georgina’s first son was named ‘William Thomas,’ I think we can say that this brother of Alexander’s was important to him.
Jessie, b. (May 24?) 1861, Sligo, Ireland; d. Sept 30, 1943. She married Captain Arthur Evans Patterson. As far as I can tell, her one and only foray into motherhood resulted in the birth of Eileen Lily Patterson in January of 1894. I believe that little Eileen died in infancy that same year. Jessie had no more children, perhaps fortunately for her, given that all three of her sisters likely died of childbirth-related causes in their 20’s. She lived until September 30, 1943, dying at age 83. Perhaps not having any more pregnancies bought her over 50 years more life than her sisters had.
Did those young women, marrying in the mid-19th century, have a sense that their funerals might follow their weddings by not very many years? The mortality statistics for young mothers tell us that that is not an overly dramatic statement to make. I don’t think that it would have been necessary for those young women to see the data. No doubt the evidence of risk was all around them…in the experiences of their friends, acquaintances, and relatives.
An interesting coincidence is that three of William and Elizabeth’s children died on July 29th, in different years:
Jane (Jeanie) died on July 29, 1868 (age 25). As mentioned, her baby daughter Elizabeth died the next morning, and they were buried together.
John died on July 29, 1882 (age 28), “leaving behind him one daughter, Elizabeth Jessie, aged 3 years and 11 months”
Alexander (my great-grandfather) died on July 29, 1892 at age 47, exactly 10 years after his brother John.
Thomas is an interesting character. As mentioned above, he had emigrated to Australia in his 40’s. I’ve been trying to find the exact date that he emigrated, and have used the 1901 and 1911 Irish census information to narrow down the date. Thomas was living with brother George and his family in 1901, and was not married. His birth year in the census is given as ‘1861’—which is incorrect by four years. Thomas is not shown in the 1911 census, as far as I can see, so I suspect he left in the intervening years.
I found a record of a Thomas Petrie on a ship’s passenger list on December 4, 1903, which showed promise for being him because it was the years between 1901 and 1911, and I’m inclined to think that if Thomas was living with George and his family in 1901, he would likely have emigrated not too long after that. (Bunking-in with a brother and his family—which included a two-year-old, a one-year-old and another baby ‘on the way’, would have gotten old very quickly.)
The ‘Thomas Petrie’ on the ship’s list was age 40, if that document can be believed. Our Thomas’s age in 1903 would have been 46. A further problem which might say that this is not our Thomas Petrie, is that the ‘40’ is listed in the ‘married’ column, under the ‘Scotch’ heading. It’s possible that his age was approximated, as ages tended to be in census records and so forth, and it is possible that since Thomas’s parents and the majority of his siblings were born in Scotland, he might have made an assumption about his birthplace without knowing for sure. (He was born in Ireland). When you’re one of 10 children, your own details may get lost in the shuffle. The ‘married’ status doesn’t work, however, unless being a married man gave you preferential treatment when emigrating, and Thomas tailored his status to his circumstances.
If this is another Thomas Petrie, who is Scottish and married, we don’t see a wife or any family listed with him as passengers. It could be that this other Thomas Petrie wanted to get established in Australia before bringing his family over (reasonable enough).
Therefore, the fact that another Thomas Petrie was going to Melbourne around the same time as our Thomas is either a coincidence, or some of the information on the ship’s list is wrong–accidentally or deliberately—and this IS our Thomas. The ship’s port of departure being London might be a factor against this being our Thomas, although ‘Farmer’ listed as occupation lends support to it.
The Petrie family ran farming operations in Ireland, as well as the fishery, and ‘Farmer’ tends to be listed as their occupation in official records. Thomas’s father, William, who was a fishery owner and manager, ship-owner, real-estate developer, land reclaimer, farmer, local politician, etcetera, has an occupation recorded on his death certificate as ‘farmer.’
That the Petries were prominent in farming is evident enough.
Here’s Thomas’s uncle Alexander of Carrowcarden’s testimonial for a plough, published in The Connaught Watchman newspaper on January 3, 1863:
[Scurmore, Ballina, 2nd September, 1860
Dear Sir—The No. 7 plough I got from you last March is as good a general plough as I have ever held. It is light on the Horse and in the hand, and have to say it is superior to any Scotch Plough I have ever had, in turning of Turnip, Potato, or Stubble soils, –Yours truly, ALEXANDER PETRIE]
The testimonial is dated September 1860, even though printed in the January 3, 1863, edition of the newspaper. I saw this same endorsement by Alexander Petrie many times in different editions of the newspaper over a span of years. I guess that until he made a move to withdraw the endorsement, it would continue to run!
When I first looked online for Thomas Petrie in connection with Australia, I found another, famous Thomas Petrie (1831-1910), who appears to have been a 19th century “Crocodile Dundee.” This is from a bio: “Accepted by the Aboriginals as a friend, he was in constant demand as a messenger or companion for exploration expeditions.” http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/petrie-thomas-tom-4395
However, there’s NO connection between that Thomas Petrie and our Thomas Petrie.
Our Thomas would have lived in Australia for over 20 years before dying in Ballarat (just west of Melbourne) in 1927. His age on his death certificate shows as 72, but in 1927, Thomas would have been 70 (born 1857). You can see the problem with records. Accuracy is not always a feature.
I don’t have much information (in fact I have NO information) about Thomas’s life in Australia, but am hopeful that something will eventually be found.
The other brother to have emigrated to a far-flung locale, was my great-grandfather, Thomas’s brother, Alexander.
He would have been only 22 years old when he was sent out to the Bay of Chaleur, New Brunswick to set up the first North American base for the Sligo Petrie fishery.
In the early days of my research I wasted some time searching through ship passenger lists to see when Alexander and Georgina might have travelled across the ocean. As I now realize, Alexander would have crossed the Atlantic on the ships owned by the Petrie fishery—as would Georgina when she first travelled to Newfoundland.
I don’t have all the details on the fleet of ships owned by the family in those days, but here’s mention of one of them. It was called The Hibernian (mis-named The Hibernia in the article below):
The Sligo Independent has the following notice
regarding the enterprise of a gentleman who has
now a close business connection with Wick:–
Our enterprising fellow townsman William Petrie,
Esq.—now one of our principal merchants—has
added to the shipping of our port, by the pur-
chase of a splendid barque, called ‘The Hibernia.’
This vessel was launched in October last, and
classed A., for seven years. She is 124 feet
in length, with a beam of twenty-five feet—is
coppered, and registered for 325 tons. The
Hibernia is to hail from Sligo, but likely will
not be seen in our harbour until summer, as she
will first go from Liverpool to North America.
We congratulate Mr. Petrie on his success in trade
and on his having added this new and handsome
vessel to the several others he at present owns.
[March 5, 1874]
The Hibernian was also used to transport passengers, as we can see from the following voyages published in the Newfoundland Express, of October and November, 1875:
Sept 1875-July 1876
Oct 5, 1875
Passengers – Per Hibernian from Liverpool – Mr. J. MURRAY and wife, Mrs. ROBERTSON and two children, Mrs. PATTERSON and two children, Miss HENLEY, Rev. P. HOLLAND, Mr. WARREN, and 2 in steerage.
For Halifax – Mr. J.W. PHILLIPS, wife and child, Mrs. BRYDEN and child, Miss LEWIS, Rev. T. HARRIS, Rev. Mr. MILLIGAN, Hon. J.J. ROGERSON, Messrs. ADAMS, LOUIS, McLEAN and 26 in steerage.
[I note a ‘Mrs. Robertson’ and a ‘Mrs. Patterson’ on the passenger list and Alexander’s sisters Jeanie and Jessie were married to a Robertson and a Patterson, respectively, but this seems to have been coincidence. Jeanie was not alive in 1875, and Jessie did not have two children.]
Per Hibernian from Halifax – Mrs. BUCHANAN, Messrs. W.H. ROSS, T.E. McDOUGALL, A. RUSSELL, E. SAMPSON, John PRIM, S.A. EARLE, G.R. CARSON, G. MORTON, J.A. VAUGH, James McDONALD and 20 in steerage.
Per Hibernian for Liverpool – Mrs. DUDER and Miss DUDER, Mrs. BOWDEN, Miss ROBINSON, Miss Selina ROBINSON, Miss E. ROBINSON, Messrs. G. BOWRING, C.F. NICHOLLE, W.P. MUNN, James J. GRIEVE, W.H. BURNETT, J.E.B. LLOYD, BENDELL, Henry BOND and 2 in steerage.
No doubt transatlantic transportation was a sideline to supplement income. If the ship had to cross the ocean anyway, and there was room on board for people, it makes sense that they would take paying passengers as well.
The Petrie Fishery was operating in Newfoundland at this point in time (1875/76), primarily in the herring fishery, from what I can determine. But everything went wrong in a rather large way, not too many years later.
What seems to have sunk them, ultimately, was the inability to repay the large loan (£3000 according to the Freeman’s Journal newspaper article from November 24, 1882 below, but £2200 (or at least this much still outstanding) according to William Petrie Jr.’s letter to Georgina two years later), and having to sell property to reconcile the debt with the Bank of Ireland.
William Petrie Senior would have been around age 63 at this point in time (1882). William Junior would have been age 41. My great-grandfather Alexander would have been 37. They were the three principals in the Petrie fishery business.
This article is from February 27, 1883, and published in The Freeman’s Journal…
TOWN OF SLIGO—COUNTY OF MAYO
In the High Court of Justice in Ireland
Sale by Auction
At The Court House In the Town of SLIGO
In the Matter of the Estate of
WILLIAM PETRIE, Sen.; or WM PETRIE, Jun, or one of them
Owners Ex parte
The Governor and Company of the Bank of Ireland,
TO BE SOLD BY PUBLIC AUCTION
In Two Lots, At the
COURT HOUSE In the Town of SLIGO
On SATURDAY, the 3rd day of March, 1883,
Beginning at the hour of One o’clock in the afternoon
Mr. ROBERT MAVEETY,
One undivided moiety, being the moiety of the owner, William Petrie, junior, [?] [and?] in houses and premises situate on the south side of Wine Street in the town of Sligo, parish of St. John, barony of Carbury, and county of Sligo, both moieties containing in area [???] or thereabouts, [??] measure, and held under lease dated the 27th day of July, 1787, made between Andrew Todd, therein described as of Sligo, in the county of Sligo, apothecary, of the one part and Archibald Campbell therein also described as of Sligo aforesaid, merchant, of the other part, for the term of 70 years, from 1st of November, 1787. at the yearly rent of £39 10s 6d, late currency, equivalent to [£28 8s 2d?] sterling, [?? ??] all taxes, payable half yearly on every 1st day of May and 1st day of November; but the purchaser will have such right and benefit of contribution in respect of a moiety of the said rent; and all costs and expenses oc-
casioned by the nonpayment of the same, out of and against the moiety of the said premises not for sale
herein as at present exist and as is just.
The net annual rental or moiety for sale herein amounts to £28 8s 2d. N.B.—Borough rates and taxes are not taken into account in the above £28 8s 2d. The Government valuation of the entire premises in
lease is £52 10s
Part of the Ordnance Townland of Srahanarry (?), situate in the parish of Kilcommon, barony of [??] and county of Mayo, held in fee simple, and containing 2a [??] or thereabouts, statute measure, with the dwellinghouse and offices erected and now standing thereon, and let to one tenant at the yearly rent of £15 payable half-yearly on 1st May and 1st November, under agreement to expire 1st May, 1890.
Date this 5th day of February, 1883.
IGNATIUS O’KEEFFE, for Examinar
Wine street (in which these premises are situate) is the most important street in Sligo. The extensive
frontage commanded is very valuable, especially with a view to new buildings.
There is a very neat slated cottage on this lot; also stabling for three horses, and other suitable accommodation. The premises are situate close to the post town of Bangor Erris, on the county road from Balinullet (?) to Castlebar, and are at present used in connection with “The Bangor Salmon Fisheries,” and comprise an ice-house, fish-house, &c. Fishing, shooting (grouse, &c), and sporting abounds, and can be had in the immediate neighbourhood.
Private offers will be received by E. H. de Moleyns, solicitor, Bank of Ireland, Dublin, up to the 24th day of February, 1883, and, if approved of, submitted to the Judge.
In the event of private-offers not being received, and the public auction taking place, the biddings as taken at said auction by the auctioneer will be submitted to the Right honourable Judge Orsby at his Court, Chancery Division, Land Judges, Four Courts, Inns quay, Dublin, on THURSDAY, the 8th day of March, 1833, at the hour of 11 o’clock in the forenoon, for approval or otherwise as to said Judge may seem proper, without further notice to any person.
For rentals and further particulars apply at the Registrar’s Office, Chancery Division, Land Judges, Four Courts, Inns quay, Dublin; to the Agents, Bank of Ireland, Sligo and Ballina; to said
E. H. De Moleyns, Solicitor having carriage of proceedings, Bank of Ireland, Dublin.
The last couple of years of William Petrie Senior’s life must have been personally disappointing, after so much enterprise and success. The business he’d worked so hard to build into a large and profitable concern was auctioned off to pay a puzzling debt (puzzling for me—what was it for?) to the bank.
He had, according to the 1882 newspaper article above, wished to remain in possession of a portion of the premises destined for auction, by virtue of a rental agreement with sons William and Alexander signed on October 28, 1881. This property consisted of a yard and offices “necessary for the working of the fishery.” The judge disallowed his continuing to rent for less than what the rental should be for that property—and so the property had to be included in the sale to offset the debt.
William Sr. appealed on the basis that the increase in property value was due to his own efforts, but it was again disallowed.
This information seems to indicate that William Junior and Alexander were the principals in charge of the business and property at this point in time—although Alexander, I suspect, in name only, since he’d been living in Newfoundland for many years.
William Sr., while being a part-owner in the business, was a “tenant under William Petrie Jr.”
William Sr. would have been 62 years old in 1881, when he signed the rental agreement to be his son’s tenant. Perhaps he’d relinquished control of the business to his sons; or, perhaps more accurately, son William—since Alexander was running a hotel in Newfoundland at this time.
I don’t have the year of the loan—or loans—but is it likely that William Sr. would have obtained financing on such a large scale from the bank even in his 50’s? William Jr. said in his letter to Georgina that he was ‘getting up in years’ at age 53. William Sr. was in his 60’s when the business insolvency occurred, and he must have been aware for some time that his working years were coming to an end. Alexander had been away in Bay of Chaleur and Newfoundland for the better part of 15 years at this point.
William Sr. probably saw himself working away in the fishery just enough to sustain himself in his later years. I don’t know that he was able to do this, since the judge ruled that his premises were to be included in the auction. In any case, it seems that his focus turned to farming, as can be seen in some petty court session accounts in the newspaper after this time.
These were from February of 1883, and were complaints by William Sr. against:
1. John McNulty, whose 5 head of cattle trespassed on his turnips on Jan 2, 1883.
2. Thomas Knight, whose 9 sheep trespassed on his turnips on Jan 26, 1883.
These were from January 19, 1883, and were complaints by William Sr. against:
1. Martin Gallagher, whose ‘foal and ass’ trespassed on his clover on Jan 10, 1883
2. John McNulty, whose 5 head of cattle trespassed on his turnips on Jan 8, 1883
3. John Wells, whose cattle trespassed on his turnips; 3 head of cattle on Jan 11, 1883, and 2 head of cattle on Jan 13, 1883
Apparently William Sr.’s crop of turnips was under pretty much continual threat throughout January of 1883. Even with the large reversal in his fortunes recently behind him, he was not the man to sit back and let his neighbours’ animals run amok, threatening his remaining livelihood.
William Sr. was also vigilant for fishing violations, which evidently continued to be a concern for him, he being a prominent fishery manager and member of the Harbour Commission for many years:
This first set of William Sr.’s fishery complaints was from December, 1883, against:
1. Pat Connor, for attempting to catch fish in spawning beds
2. John Devins, for the same offense
3. Pat Connor, again, but for using a spear for fishing
These are December, 1882, complaints William Petrie Sr. brought against:
1. Pat Kilmartin (?) for unlawfullly using a gaff for the purpose of taking salmon in the Drumcliff River.
2. Matthew Costello for the same offense.
3. Thomas Coggins for trying to catch salmon in the spawning bed in the closed season.
This complaint (below) was in July of 1883, and it was brought by William Petrie Sr. against Thomas Coggins,
“the occupier of a certain watercourse constructed for the purpose of conveying water from the river Drumcliffe, same being a river frequented by salmon, neglected to keep and preserve in constant repair at the points respectively of the divergence of said watercourse from return to said river lattice of legal construction in said watercourse extending across the whole width of said watercourse from the bottom of the bed or silt thereof respectively to the level of the highest water or flood waters contrary to the [?] in such case made and provided 21st June ’83 at Collinsford.”
I suppose he continued with his farming and fishery interests, until he was struck down the following year, on September 22, 1884, aged 65, by what must have been a massive heart attack, killing him instantly. While it was sudden, it was not entirely unexpected, according to his obituary (below).
I don’t know if his wife, my great-great grandmother Elizabeth (nee Williamson) was alive at the time of William’s death, and cannot find her death record. She is not mentioned in the obituary notice, but none of the family are.
There’s some debate about this entry in the family Bible for an ‘Elizabeth Petrie’…
This might be the elusive Elizabeth, sister to my great-great grandfather William of Rosserk, for whom I have no other documentation supporting her existence–OR (as I am inclined to think), it might be Elizabeth (née Williamson), WIFE of William of Rosserk, and therefore my great-great grandmother. There is no other mention of Elizabeth, my great-great grandmother, in the family Bible.
My great-great grandfather William Petrie of Rosserk was predeceased by four of his ten children, Ann (d. 1866), Jeanie (d. 1868), Elizabeth (d, 1872), and John (d. 1882)—all of whom died in their twenties. If the above entry in the family Bible was William’s wife, Elizabeth (and not his sister), she would have died after her three daughters (in 1876), and before her son, John. No cause of death provided in the Bible, but losing three of her four daughters in the ten years prior to her own death would be cause enough, I should think.
I believe William’s obituary was published in The Sligo Independent newspaper in the last week of September, 1884. It was provided to me by a department specializing in Sligo heritage at the library in Sligo, and unfortunately did not show a specific source or date:
DEATH OF MR. WILLIAM PETRIE, SEN.
A brief telegram which reached Sligo on Tuesday last announced the sudden death of the above-named gentleman at his Mayo residence, Rossirk. Although he had been ill for some time, the announcement of his death created a melancholy impression in Sligo, where he had been so well known as a man of much enterprise and industry. He brought with him to Sligo from Scotland a large amount of sagacity and knowledge of certain departments which were eminently useful in developing important resources of our country. With our fisheries his name will always be connected, for, as lessee, he worked them well, and developed them to the fullest extent. He was a man of indomitable courage and perseverance, and always personally superintended the work he considered necessary to be done. He was very extensively engaged in the Scotch herring fishery, and imported large quantities into this country from his place in Wick. He was a fine specimen of his country, and possessed an open heart and an obliging disposition. Like all earnest, hard-working men, his physical capacities gave way before the allotted time. He was formerly a very active member of our Harbour Board, and was extensively connected with the shipping interests.
The Ballina Herald, referring to his death, says very truly he was a man of energetic character, and adds:–“Sligo did not afford him a sufficient scope for his energies, and he engaged extensively in fishing operations in Mayo, taking the fishings of Carrowmore Lake and other parts of Erria, and latterly some in the upper waters of the Moy. Many years ago he took on lease from the late Sir Arthur (then Colonel) Gore the lands of Rossirk, at the time mostly bog and waste, and a pioneer in those parts in the scientific treatment of land, he made literally what was a ‘desert’ to ‘blossom as the rose.’ He was before the steam plough, but his broad wheeled carts, made specially to go over the bogs, and his implements of reclamation, also made specially, were for years the wonder and admiration of surrounding farmers, and the condition of Rossirk at the present moment is a monument of his patient, persevering skill and workmanship. He spent as much of his time as he could spare from his other avocations at Rossirk, directing the farm work there, and there he died, on Monday morning last, being called away in a very sudden manner—while dressing he fell down, and was taken up dead. But this was not altogether unexpected, as he had been advised that he might at any time die from heart disease. Not later than Monday week he attended a meeting of the Conservators of the Ballina district, and took a very prominent part in their discussions. Many in both counties will regret the death of Mr. Petrie, and will remember him as a good friend, a wise adviser, and an example of industry and perseverance.”
Took place on Wednesday last. The remains were brought from Rossirk to Sligo, and were deposited in the family vault in the Sligo Cemetery. A large number of persons from Sligo went out to pay the last tribute of respect to the deceased, and the funeral cortege was a long one. Mr. Robert Maveely had charge of the funeral arrangements, which he carried out in his usual faultless manner.
And so, with my dynamic great-great grandfather William Petrie of Rosserk’s demise, ends Part 2 of our family history.
I hadn’t expected to need to divide this into three parts, but there’s just so much information, and I’m struggling with what to use and what to put aside.
Part 3 will take us back to Newfoundland, and re-focus on Alexander and Georgina and their family. I will also hope to include something about the failure of the Petrie Newfoundland fishery, and the losses of ships–assuming the archivists get a bit more indexing of those records completed.