Monthly Archives: November 2015

A book I will probably never read


For Book Week Scotland it might seem odd to write about a book that I have never read. It is a small, rather tatty volume with yellowing and grubby pages but it is one of my more precious books.

Sandford cover

“The History of Sandford and Merton, A moral and instructive lesson for young people” has a wonderful gold and black thistle embossed cover.

It is of little monetary value but it contains a presentation bookplate that is priceless to me.


John Paterson III Class for proficiency in all subjects 1879-1880

John Paterson, my great-grandfather was born in 1869. Like his father he worked his whole life on farms in Fife employed as a ploughman and later as a farm grieve (overseer).  The 1881 census recorded the family in a farm cottage on the outskirts of Cupar with John at school, this bookplate confirms the name of the school as Madras Academy.

The 1872 Education (Scotland) Act introduced compulsory education for all children between the ages of 5 and 13. The Act also transferred control of schools from the church to elected school boards.  John probably left school aged 13 a year before the school leaving age was increased to 14 in 1883.

Madras Academy in Cupar (now called Bell Baxter High School) was, along with Madras College in St Andrews, founded by Rev. Dr. Andrew Bell.  These schools were named after the Madras system of education Bell had developed while teaching the children of the Honourable East India Company regiments. The system used older boys to instruct groups of younger pupils and was eventually adopted by over 10,000 schools worldwide.

This copy of “Sandford and Merton “does not look well thumbed. However, in a family where very little was kept except for a few photographs it must have been considered valuable in some way. I’m certainly glad that it survived as a small tangible connection to my great-grandfather and his early life.

Paterson Family pre 1904 cropped

John Paterson and family circa 1900s




James Blyth Morrison

Image © D.C.Thomson & Co. Ltd. All rights reserved. Image created courtesy of The British Library Board. Image reproduced with kind permission of The British Newspaper Archive (

For armistice day I am remembering my great-aunt’s husband James Morrison.  After many years of researching I was delighted to find the above photograph thanks to the British Newspaper Archive records and Find My Past.

James was born on 19th July 1890 at 43 Hospital Wynd, Dundee, the son of Jane Blyth and John Morrison.  The family moved to Murroes a few miles north of Dundee sometime between 1893 when James’ sister Jane was born in Dundee and 1897 when his sister Christina was born at Murroes.

By 31st March 1901 when the next census was recorded the family lived at Cotton of Brighty, Murroes.  James was at school and his father worked at the local sandstone quarry.  By 2nd April 1911 John had joined his father as a labourer at Duntrune quarry.

Nearby at Ballumbie House, the family of Alexander Gilroy, Jute merchant included James’ future wife, 21 year old domestic servant Maggie A. W. Laing.

Map of Murroes


Three years later James and Maggie were married at his home, Burnside of Duntrune.  Maggie worked as a domestic servant in Broughty Ferry and James still worked at the quarry.  Their first child, James Alexander Morrison, was born on 15th September 1914 and his sister Jane Blyth Morrison was born 6th October 1915.

Nine months later James enlisted with The Black Watch.  Unfortunately his army enlistment and pension papers have not survived but some of his military service can be pieced together using other sources including newspaper articles.

Dundee Courier 19th December 1917.

“Dundee Soldier Killed in Action.

Mrs Morrison, 3 Constitution Street, Dundee, has been informed of the death at the front of her husband, Private James Morrison, Black Watch.  Deceased enlisted in July 1916, and went to the front In December, 1917 (sic)*.  Prior to joining the army he was employed at the quarries at Duntrune.  Private Morrison leaves two children.”

*December 1916?

Private James Morrison, service number S/16515 enlisted at Perth and served with the 1st Battalion Royal Highlanders (The Black Watch).  Sixteen months later he was killed in action on 18th November 1917, aged 27, leaving his widow Maggie with two children aged three and two.

The 1st Battalion Black Watch was engaged in the second battle of Passchendaele in November 1917 and attacked Vox Farm on the nights of the 18/19th.  The failed attempt led to the deaths of 24 officers and men; a further 60 were wounded and six declared missing.

James has no war grave but is listed on the Tyne Cot Memorial, Belgium.   He is also commemorated on Murroes War Memorial.

Murroes Memorial

In May 1922 his widow Maggie, son James and daughter Jane sailed on SS Metagama from Glasgow to Canada. Maggie built a new life in Canada, remarried and had a further three children.  She died in British Columbia in 1983 aged 94.

We Will Remember Them


British Army WW1 Medal Roll Index Cards, 1914-1920.

Scottish births, marriages, deaths and census entries.

British Columbia death records .

Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Passenger Lists Leaving UK, 1890-1960.

British Newspapers 1710-1953 collection.

Wauchope,Major-General A.G. (1925) A History of The Black Watch [Royal Highlanders] in the Great War 1914-1918.  Vol.1 pp.70-71. London: The Medici Society Limited.