Sunday, 20 February 2011

John Hunter- A Covenanting Martyr 1685

Last year I visited this memorial beside the Moffat-Edinburgh road overlooking the Devil's Beef Tub to John Hunter. He came from the parish of Tweedsmuir in Peebleshire and while visiting a sick friend in the farm of Corehead in Moffat he was surprised by dragoons of Col Douglas who was searching the area for field conventicles of outlawed Presbyterian Covenanters. Hunter tried to flee up the hillside opposite the memorial. Trying to take to the steep ground unsuitable for horses was to no avail. He was captured and executed on the spot,marked by a boulder known as the Martyr's Stone. His body was recovered and taken back to Tweedsmuir where it was interred in the local parish cemetery. The gravestone was erected in the 18th century and cared for by Robert Paterson "Old Mortality" in the book by Sir Walter Scott. The Hunter,Welsh,Fraser,Hope,Tweedie and Porteous families were long associated with this area. See for more local information.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Valentines - The postcards from Dundee

Today being Valentines day, the day for giving and receiving cards of affection,I thought it worth mentioning that other famous postcard company from Dundee. Valentines and Sons were once Scotland's most successful commercial photographers. Founded in 1825 by John Valentine,the firm initially worked on engraving and printing,but John learnt portrait photography in Paris and this was added to the company range in 1851. They produced their first postcards in 1898 in monotone black,collotype views which catered for the growing upper and middle class tourist industry. Valentines were also commissioned to take photographs of theTay Bridge following the disaster for the Official Inquiry. As photography became more popular and affordable,picture postcards were replaced with greeting cards and what was left of the company was sold in 1980 to Hallmark Cards.
Dundee City Library holds the collection of photographs of the Tay Bridge disaster and the library and photographic archive of the University of St Andrews has a vast collection of the company archives. Valentines had a policy of discarding old negatives so of an estimated over 1,000,000 about 120,000 survive. Over 28,000 are available to view online at and more will be added as the digitisation continues.
A fantastic collection of places and social history,well worth a look.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Scottish Clan and Family DNA Projects F

Fairburn -
Farquhar -
Farquharson -
Fender -
Fenton -
Fenwick -
Fergus -
Ferguson -
Fergusson  -
Findlay -
Findlayson -
Finney -
Fisher -
Fleming -
Fletcher -
Flett -
Flint -
Foggo -
Forbes -
Ford -
Forgie -
Forman -
Forrest -
Foster/Forster  -
Fortune -
Fowler -
Fox -
Frame -
Francis -
Fraser -
Fraser -
Freeman -
French -
Frezel/Freser - see Fraser
Frier/Freer -
Frisell/Frizelle - see Fraser
Fullarton -
Fulton -

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Dalmeny: A West Lothian Parish

The parish of Dalmeny sandwiched between Edinburgh and South Queensferry many speed through by road and rail to the Forth bridges. The eastern parish and county boundary is the River Almond where the river is crossed by the 16th century Cramond Brig.

Following the river down stream to where it enters the Firth of Forth crosses through the Dalmeny estate.Originally called Dunmanyn (stony fort) a Gilbert Dumnanyn rendered homage in 1296 though  few of the Dalmeny surname survive today. Along the foreshore the restored Barnbougle Castle dominates the view upstream.Now restored it was built by the Moubray family in the 13th century and purchased in 1662 by the Primrose family of Dunfermline and Carrington.

Archibald Primrose was created Viscount Primrose in 1700 and Earl of Rosebery in 1703. The family found Barnbougle unsuitable and in1817 built the Tudor Gothic Dalmeny House. Here the 5th Earl of Rosebery and Liberal British Prime Minister held many political parties.

Within the planned village of Dalmeny is its famous 12th century church.

One of the best preserved Norman churches in Scotland it retains the familiar Romanesque arched door and windows.

There are many fine old memorials in the graveyard depicting  mortality and the last resting place of

 John Hill Burton (1809-1881) Historiographer Royal and biographer of David Hume.

In the mid 19th and early 20th centuries Dalmeny had numerous shale mines and the red bings were a familiar site from the roadside. The census returns and local newspapers refer to the increasing population of miners and builders with the associated  fatalities in the mines and during the construction of the Forth Rail Bridge.A short walk through the parish is rewarded with a visit to the Cramond Brig restaurant.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Surgeons' Hall,Edinburgh

This fine neoclassical building designed by William Playfair (1790-1857) is home to the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh. Established on 1 July 1505 when the Barber Surgeons of Edinburgh were incorporated as a Craft Guild of the City,the college with the university and infirmary has played an eminent role in surgical training and research.
Many Scots and those of Scottish descent have medical relations who trained at the medical school of Edinburgh University. Those who took medical degrees can be traced from the university records.Some became surgeons by licentiate or fellowship examinations and the minutes of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh commencing in 1581 record names of successful candidates. A List of Fellows of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh from 1581-1873 was published by the college in 1874 .For more information about historical and family history enquiries contact the college at

and also pay a  visit to the very popular museum.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Candlemas 2 February

Today is Candlemas another of the old Scottish Quarter days when farm contracts,leases,rents began and ended.Originally known as Imbolc in the pre-Christian calendar it was used to foretell the rest of the winter weather. It falls on the midpoint of winter half way between the shortest day and the spring equinox.Christianity adopted the day to mark the cleansing of the Virgin  Mary after the birth of Jesus and the church to bless new candles for the coming year.
Good weather at Candlemas is taken to indicate severe winter weather would follow. In Scotland the emergence of snakes from the ground became Groundhogs in the United States and Canada. This aspect of Candlemas evolved into Groundhog Day. If the Groundhog could see its shadow,there will be 40 more days of winter.

If Candlemas day be dry and fair,
The half o the Winter's to come and mair;
If Candlemas day be wet and foul,
The half o the Winter's gane at Yule.