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Re: [Peterhead] Farm Servants; Reply from Ray Hennessy

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  • Ray Hennessy
    Jim s survey of servitude in N E Scotland is a wonderful review of the situation many of our ancestors were in. As an example, one line of Sheena s
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 13, 2006
      Jim's survey of servitude in N E Scotland is a wonderful
      review of the situation many of our ancestors were in.

      As an example, one line of Sheena's GGrandparents offer
      a somewhat bitter example. The husband died at the age of
      53 about 20 miles away from home. He was clearly on
      contract there and also clearly not in the best of health.

      The wife was at home with the five youngest children and,
      together with her second daughter, gave her occupation as
      dressmaker [hopefully not the usual euphemism].

      The oldest daughter was a 'domestic servant' at a cottage
      next door but one as the guardian/housekeeper for a family
      of five children the youngest of whom was 12. Obviously
      their father was also away on contract and needed someone,
      even a 13 year old girl, to look after the bairns. We haven't
      found with certainty the oldest brother [Scottish Naming
      Pattern difficulties] but he was probably an Ag Lab somewhere.

      On the other side of the tree, in 1851, a 12 year old boy was
      a shepherd on a remote hillside, to help the family finances.

      In both families most of the children rose to positions of some
      significance; the shepherd boy ended up as the Superintendent
      of one of the two Kelso Poor Houses [both sadly demolished now].

      Although we may feel some concern for the harshness of 19th
      century living for Ag Labs and Dom Svts in rural Aberdeenshire,
      and it was certainly that as an ancestor's memoire attests, they were
      capable of making good lives and we are all examples of the results
      of their hard work. There was nothing unusual or, generally, demeaning
      in the work they did. It helped them and their neighbours to develop
      the area and make it the wonderful county it now is.

      I believe we are all mostly in this adventure of ancestral research to
      honour their memory, even and perhaps especially the ones who have
      no memorials [pace Thomas Gray's "mute inglorious Miltons"]

      Best wishes to all

      Ray Hennessy

      ----- Original Message -----
      From: <jsethomson@...>
      To: <Peterhead@yahoogroups.com>
      Sent: Monday, February 13, 2006 5:05 PM
      Subject: 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
      > first child.
      > 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
      > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      > Peterhead Genealogy at http://users.bigpond.net.au/phdgen/
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