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Saturday, 14 April 2012


In a terrific example of sucking up to the local gentry, my 3x great grandfather William Reid named at least two and arguably four of his eleven children after the incumbents of the local Big House, Gilmilnscroft House in Sorn, Ayrshire. His eldest girl and boy were named after his parents Mary and Robert. (Luckily for him his resilient wife was also called Mary.) But thereafter, until he finally ran out of options, his children were all called after Gilmilnscroft’s inhabitants, James Farquhar and his wife Margaret née Baillie, or the nearest sounding equivalent.

Gilmilnscroft House, Sorn, in 1964
16th/17th century tower house with 19th century additions

William’s second daughter was my 2x great grandmother, whom he named Jane Farquhar Reid. Jane not only sounds like James, but was also James Farquhar’s mother’s name. Next came Jane’s sister, Margaret Baillie Reid. Then came a fourth daughter, called - the name Jane now no longer being available - Janet; and finally another son, christened James. Only with his third son did William feel free to bestow his own name onto the next generation. (Thomas, Helen, Grace and John completed the brood.)

Margaret and Jane were also the names of James and Margaret Farquhar’s daughters, so William Reid must have been pretty confident that he had done everything he could to express his allegiance to the Farquhar family. He was a coachman at Gilmilnscroft, and sure enough at least five of his children successfully found employment there.

Some 19th century Farquhars of Gilmilnscroft
(servants not pictured)

His eldest, Mary, was a housekeeper and sick nurse there. Second daughter Jane was maid to Margaret Farquhar. Third daughter Margaret was a domestic servant in the house. Eldest son James was like his father a coachman and domestic servant, until he married and moved to Glasgow. William junior was a gentleman’s nurse, until he caught tuberculosis and died. (They definitely held these posts, although I don’t know for certain, except in Jane and Margaret’s cases, that they all held them in the Big House; but such situations were not available anywhere else in the immediate area.)

Jane Farquhar Reid and Margaret Baillie Reid both eventually married and left service, Jane to John Piper in 1857 and Margaret to a Mr Kirkland in 1866. About 60 years later, Margaret’s grandson James Kirkland married Jane’s granddaughter Agnes, whom I knew as my great aunt Nessie. Nessie’s sister was my grandmother, Jean Farquhar Reid Piper. They had all by then moved up in the world: Nessie married a solicitor, and Jean married a doctor!

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