Re: [Peterhead] Farm Servants; Reply from J. Thomson
- Good Morning, Hester: Your GG GM Helen Mitchell was not what was
considered a "farm servant". She would have been considered a household "servant".
"Farm servants" were either men or women that actually worked outside doing
actual agricultural work. The pattern was very nearly universal. Single men or
women, would be hired for a six month term as farm servants; A married man
commonly would be hired for a year...most often, like my greatgrandfather, he got
one of those cottages I previously described. I believe in the time of Helen
Mitchell that it would be fair to say that in most rural parishes well over
one- third were such "farm servants"..maybe far more. There were "hiring
fairs" at prominent country towns, held in November, and May or each year. Most
of the "farm servants" were hired at such times. However domestic womans help
might be handled otherwise...perhaps the farmers wife would see to the hiring
of her helpers, herself. There might be two or more different versions of the
domestic help. One or more servant girls would be strictly working at inside
projects. It, of course, depended on the size of the farm and the farmer's
family. Those of any size, where they had regular inside only girl servants,
would have one "in and out" servant girl. She handled the garden, chickens,
perhaps butter and cheese making, and also had to help the inside girl.
It is hard to say when a small farm might have a man servant and/or woman
servant. I was surprised to see, I believe it was the 1851 census of
Boddam-Peterhead Parish, that my ggrandmother's sister and brother in law had both a
female servant and a male servant..the latter definitely a 'farm servant" Later
they had none but the boys growing older made it unecessary.
Young girls, typically, as in most of GB, would start off helping some
family, in the immediate neighborhood. My ggrandmother Elspet Milne had just turned
13 years old, and was listed as a house servant at Whitehill a substantial
small farm on the outskirts of Peterhead...supposed to be an alcoholic
rehabilitation place today, I am told. I suspect she was either hired directly
thereafter, or at the hiring fair held in Longside, twice a year, to someplace down
in Logie Buchan Parish. James Buchan, a large landowner in both Longside and
Logie Buchan may have hired her. I have wondered if James Buchan who was the
owner of the Estate of Auchmacoy, was the "James" after which my grandfather
was name...he was regarded as a very decent and fair man, and if he had been
good to her, it was not uncommon for servant girls to remember on having their
The single male servants were notorious for "flitting". This meant that
they most almost had a habit, no matter whether they liked a farm, of moving on
in six months or a year. The ministers complained that this was so common
that they hardly got to know much any of these members of their parish.
I am sure you have a good library handy...if you live in Toronto...a
wonderful one...I used it for genealogical purposes two years ago. If you want to
know what life was like in the second half of the 19th century in the rural areas
around Peterhead, one David Kerr Cameron, a former London newspaper man,
whose father and grandfather were "crofters" in the area has written at least
threee fine books on the subject: The Ballad and the Plough" (farm servant"s
lives); Willie Gavin, Crofter Man..(about the men who leased small plots, and
were semi-independent--a real life style, now all but gone, but different than
the "crofter" style" still existing by law in the Highlands).
A former U. of Aberdeen Professor, Ian Carter, has written a very find
scholastic book about Farm Life in Northeast Scotland. He describes in considerable
detail the situation of "farm servants" in Aberdeenshire. Another scholastic
book about Farm Life in Scotland generally by Thomas M. Devine, is also very
good, but Aberdeenshire is not covered as well.
I should mention that I am quite familiar with the area around Auchmacoy...I
was last there in Oct. of 2003. Rannieston, is the first farm that my newly
married Ggrandparents lived on, and it is within walking distance...the mansion
is for rent to tourists...see "Rannieston" on Google. In their last years
in Scotland, they were one of four married farm servant couples living on the
Estate of Birness on the north part of Logie Buchan.
I have very considerable material on Logie Buchan parish...of course all
three of the Statistical Abstracts for the same...1790's 1840's and 1950's. In
addition a book called the "The Vale of Ythan" Ythan is the river that runs
through Logie Buchan. The book was written in the 1890's when they were having
a subscription drive to finance a bridge that now crosses from the old parish
church over and close to the Estate of Auchmacoy. In 1977, I attended the
second to last church service there. The church is now owned by the owner of
Auchmacoy who is the Clan Chief of Buchan, and apparently it is opened only for
the 'clans" special doings now.
I noted in your previous e-mail you were speculating on the paternity
situation of one or more persons. It is altogether possible that the "Robert" Milne
to which you refer was your "James" Milnes brother. I am living in my present
location as winter quarters for another month...but almost all of my files
are back in the midwest, but I am reasonably sure that of the three baptized
brothers one was named "Robert" I have not way of knowing if any reached
maturity, but obviously the one unbaptized, to our knowledge, reached it, in order
to buy a lair(cemetery plot" for his mother and father in the year 1856.
Illegitmacy ran around 20 % at the time; however it did not often hurt a girl's
chances...she showed she was fertile and already had some assurance that there
was someone to take care of them when old...the "Poor Law" was no safety net
at all, and no Social Security and the poor houses abomindable.
I do go on Scotlandspeoples from time to time...and it has been a
genealogical gold mine. I am also a member of the Aberdeen and Northeast Scotland Family
History Center, and they have been of great help as has been some of their
publications. I will, hopefully be writing a manuscript about the Thomsons,
Milnes, and McWilliams and others eventually, as I now have eleven bankers boxes
full of material on my desk in the midwest awaiting my return...I will add
at least another bankers box from my work here in Virginia, over the winter.
I could go on for hours on end on Scottish social history...some may fault
me on this or that. To them I say, there is a great deal of variation from
parish to parish and county to county with Scotland. I have ordered a new book
entitled "Buchan Words and Ways" from "Books From Scotland" (they take your
credit card) Buchan is the old name for most or the area from around Ellon
north. From Ellon south, the old name was "Formartine". (sp).
As you can see, this is just too long for an e-mail, so will close.
Regards, Jim Thomson
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- Hi, Jim:
Thank you for that wonderful explanation of the various types of
servants and their duties!
>>>There were "hiring fairs" at prominent country towns, held inNovember, and May of each year.<<<
Oh, that's enlightening! Although Logie Bucan is not very far away
from Old Deer by our modern sensibilities, it was far enough that I
wondered how Helen had heard about the job, since "word of mouth"
would probably not travel that far. A centralized hiring fair is a
likely answer (far more likely than the newspaper ad my husband
>>> The single male servants were notorious for "flitting". Thismeant that they most almost had a habit, no matter whether they
liked a farm, of moving on in six months or a year. The ministers
complained that this was so common that they hardly got to know much
any of these members of their parish.<<<
My GG GF, Alexander Forbes, who married Helen, was probably one of
these "flitters". He was an "Angricultural Labourer" at the Mains
of Tarty, just across the Ythan from Artrochie and Auchmacoy. He
originally came from nearby Slains parish. By the 1881 census, he
and Helen were living in Peterhead, where he worked as a "Carter".
The birthplaces of their children shown on the 1881 census indicate,
however, that immediately after their marriage, before the birth of
their first son, they had moved from Logie Buchan to Helen's home
parish of Old Deer, where their first two children were born, before
going to Peterhead.
Given the ministers' complaints, I suspect the "flitting" from place
to place was one way for the young men to avoid the social control
of the church and community elders. I suspect many young men were
reluctant church-goers. I know that my G GF, Helen & Alexander's
son, steadfastly refused to attend church here in Canada, although
his wife was a regular church-goer and active in the Ladies'
Auxillary at the local Presbyterian church.
>>> I am sure you have a good library handy...if you live inToronto...a > wonderful one...I used it for genealogical purposes
two years ago. <<<
Yes, our public library here is quite impressive. Using on-
line "holds" I can have a book delivered to my local branch from any
branch in the city. And the central reference library has a ton of
more obscure material (non-circulating). In addition, I have access
as an alumni to both UofT and York's libraries. A researcher's
>>> David Kerr Cameron, The Ballad and the PloughWillie Gavin, Crofter Man
Ian Carter, Farm Life in Northeast Scotland <<<
I shall look for those!
Also, at the suggestion of someone in the "Doric" Yahoo group, I've
just ordered a used copy of the novel _Logie o' Buchan_ written by
Gavin Grieg, the folksong collector, published in 1899 (and re-issed
in 1985). The novel is set in 1746 in a different Logie, between
Strichen & Crimond, and the plot elaborates the story of the
folksong "Logie o'Buchan".
Here's a streamed sound file of the song as sung by Heather Heywood:
and the lyrics to the song:
Although in novel form, the book contains a great deal of the folk
customs and social history of the area, as researched by Grieg, who
was a schoolteacher.
>>> I should mention that I am quite familiar with the area aroundAuchmacoy...I was last there in Oct. of 2003. Rannieston, is the
first farm that my newly married Ggrandparents lived on, and it is
within walking distance...the mansion is for rent to
tourists...see "Rannieston" on Google.<<<
Here it is:
How lovely! Sleeps 12! Sounds like a bit more room than just my
husband and I need, but I'd be very interested if anyone could
suggest some "cozier" (& slightly more economical) accomodation as a
base for exploring the area next time we visit. I'd been thinking
of the Udny Arms Hotel in Newburgh, but had seen some negative
reviews of it on-line. What are other members' experiences with and
suggestions for accomodation in the area?
>>>The church is now owned by the owner of Auchmacoy who is theClan Chief of Buchan, and apparently it is opened only for
the 'clans" special doings now.<<<
Oh, yes, I'd come across an article about that at the "Clan Buchan"
Many thanks for all your info, Jim!
Should you wish information re accommodation in this are please feel free to contact me off list at margiedavidson@... as I live in Cruden Bay just next door to all the places you are mentioning. Know them all well- even Tarty as my Great Aunt and her husband lived in a farm labourers cottage there until he retired,
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