Taken from
Issue Number 81 Spring 2017

Preservation Island, Bass Straight, Australia. Mark McKenna.


Thomas Telford and his Kintyre connections

A recently published biography, Man of Iron: Thomas Telford and the Building of Britain (Bloomsbury. 448 pp., 25£) should be of interest to certain families in Kintyre which can claim kinship with Telford. He was born in 1757 in the upland parish of Westerkirk in Dumfriesshire. His father, John Telford, died soon after Thomas's birth, and he was raised by his mother, Janet Jackson.

She belonged to the same Jackson family which arrived in Kintyre in 1855: George Jackson, a 23-year-old shepherd, born in Westerkirk; his wife, Ann Caiman (21), born in Brydekirk, Dumfriesshire, and baby daughter, Mary, born in Eskdalemuir. In the Southend Census of 1861, the Jacksons were in 'Srone', near the Mull of Kintyre, with five additional children and George's brother John, an 18-year-old shepherd, born, like George, in Westerkirk.

The Jackson genes in Kintyre are extensive, though the Jackson name itself - relative to that family - has died out. Those local families descended from George Jackson include Blair, Clark and McKendrick.

The great engineer himself, whose multitudinous and diverse achievements include the Menai Suspension Bridge in Wales and the Caledonian Canal, worked as a shepherd boy and then as an apprentice stonemason, before, in 1782, he went to London to seek the fame and fortune, which, by a potent mix of talent and ambition, he gained. He died in 1834, in London, before his kinsman George Jackson set foot in Kintyre; but Telford had been to Kintyre ... just. In the early 19th century, he supervised harbour improvements at Tarbert.

William McTaggart's Siblings
Angus Martin

I make no apology for returning once again to the painter William McTaggart in the pages of this Magazine, for he is, I believe, the greatest of the many natives of Kintyre who have distinguished themselves in commerce, science and the arts; a genius who emerged from unpromising origins to become famous in his lifetime, and whose work remains, more than a century after his death, an immoveable pillar in the pantheon of Scottish Art.

This time, however, the focus is rather different. It occurred to me that little had been published on his siblings, and this study aims to address that deficiency. If I imagined, at the outset, that I might uncover, among these siblings, hitherto unrecognised distinction, I was mistaken. His brother Duncan's obituarist in 1899 referred to the five brothers' all being 'noted for their intellectual powers', but of that claim there is no particular evidence. Certainly, all four of William's brothers did well for themselves socially and professionally, though the sisters, whatever their intellectual or creative attributes, appear to have con formed to the restrictions of their social 'class': domestic service and then marriage.

It is noteworthy that all seven McTaggart children left Kintyre, and that only one, Archibald, who had no children, returned, so there are no direct descendants there, though the broader family is represented, in genes if not in name. The parents, Dugald and Barbara, themselves moved, in 1860, to Glasgow, where Dugald would die in the following year (Barbara would return to Campbeltown and die there in 1884).

For many years I have wondered how the various MacTaggart families in Kintyre might connect with one another; I am now researching the question, for a future article, and will welcome any information.

For assistance with this article, I am indebted to my wife Judy for internet research and to Murdo MacDonald for documentary research in Lochgilphead. 'Caw', 'Errington' and 'Kvaerne', cited in the text, are the main authors on William McTaggart, and their bibliographical details can be found in Dr Eleanor MacDougall's 'Main Sources' on p 17 of the article following this.

Duncan (1831-99)

Duncan, the eldest child of Dugald McTaggart and Barbara Brolachan, was born on 27/4/1831 - just over a year after his parents' marriage, on 4/4/1830 and baptised seven days later. His birthplace is not stated, but may be assumed to have been Aros, a farm west of Campbeltown, in the Laggan of Kintyre. By the census of 1841, Dugald and his family were in town, and Aros was without a resident tenant-farmer, just three agricultural labourers with their families, comprising 20 individuals in total, living on the farm.

In that census, Dugald and family were in School Lane, which appears to have led off Argyll Street towards Fleming's Land on the Castlehill. Duncan appears in that record, aged 10, but 10 years later, in 1851, when the family was in Main Street, he is absent, perhaps living elsewhere and plying his trade as a tailor, the occupation he followed throughout his life.

He was certainly living in Glasgow in 1859, as a tailor at I Duke Street, when he married Elizabeth Campbell Morrison, a dressmaker at 10 George Street (brother Dugald's address when he married four years later). Duncan described his father as a 'carter' and identified his mother as 'Barbara Brodie'. Elizabeth 's parents were James Morrison, 'land steward', and Margaret Buchanan. The witnesses were 'W. McTaggart', presumably the artist, and Isabella Paterson, who also witnessed Dugald's sister Barbara's marriage 10 years later and may have been a relative.

Censuses show that Elizabeth Morrison was born in Kilmichael-Glassary Parish, and that is where the McTaggart family is found in I XX 1, with one Glasgow-born daughter, Margaret (19), a tailor's machinist, and three other children - Dugald (10), James D. (X) and Mary (7) - all born in Lochgilphead. The family was recorded at 20 Church Street, Lochgilphead, but Duncan was absent, visiting his widowed mother at 11 Millknowe Terrace, Campbeltown. There was one other visitor at number 11, Margaret Blair, a 14-year-old 'dressmaker apprentice', born in Greenock. Dugald's mother would die three years later, aged 79, at G1ebe Street, Campbeltown, as 'Barbara Brodie' (Argyllshire Herald, 22/11/1 884), the surname 'Brolachan' being by then unfashionably outlandish.

Of Duncan's time in Lochgilphead, little is known. Murdo MacDonald checked 'Annals of Lochgilphead and Mid Argyll', a series of articles by Archibald Carswell published in the Argyllshire Advertiser in the 1930s, but found only two indirect references. On 23/3/1938, in a piece describing the various sports and games played on village greens, a notable high-jumper Alick McNair was described as 'an apprentice tailor with Mactaggart, tailor (a brother of the well-known Scottish painter) in Argyll Street'; and on 12/10/193X, in a description of the shops and other businesses on the east side of Argyll Street: 'Mactaggart, the tailor, did business here for a time. He was a brother of the well-known and honoured Scottish artist. Many of the local youth passed from Mactaggart's bench to take important places in the world of sartorial experts.'

Duncan McTaggart and his family moved from Lochgilphead to Taynuilt in the mid-1880s. On 9/5/1 XX4, he was granted a feu charter of 994 square yards of ground on the south side of the road to Taynuilt railway station. He had moved there by 31/1/IXX7, when granted a 'Bond I()J' £400 and Disposition in Security' for that ground. (Register of Sasines, Argyll) Presumably the bond was money borrowed to pay for the building of his house, which he would name 'Aros Villa', after his birthplace in Kintyre. The house appears in a postcard of Taynuilt which Murdo MacDonald has seen and comments on thus: 'The front of the house on to the street is built of squared hammer-dressed blocks of grey granite, probably from the Ben Cruachan quarry, and must have provided quite a contrast to the humble thatched houses directly opposite.'

Of William's four brothers, Duncan, remarkably, was the only one given an obituary in the Campbeltown newspapers. He died on 28/9/1899, aged 68, and his obituary - copied from the Oban Times - appeared in the Argyllshire Herald of 14/ I 0/1899. The following is an extract: 'Although never taking any active part in public affairs, Mr MacTaggart was keenly interested in local matters. He was of a kindly and genial disposition, and will be missed by many friends. He is survived by a widow, two sons, and one daughter. Mr MacTaggart's death is the first break in a family of five sons and three daughters. Of his brothers, all noted for their intellectual powers, one is the famous artist, W. MacTaggart, whose pictures are so well-known all over the world.'

The value of his estate, at £ 130 3s 6d, was relatively small, at least compared with those of his brothers. His will was written just a week before his death, and his executor was named as Dugald Archibald McTaggart, 'crofter, Taynuilt', a son. (Calendar of Confirmations & Inventories)

He was buried at Muckairn graveyard, Taynuilt, and his name was the first inscribed on the stone, but successive names and dates are jumbled. He was followed by his wife Elizabeth (died 1/8/1908); a grand-daughter, Barbara Brodie McDonald (17/9/1889); daughter Margaret, wife of Donald McDonald (2/7/1891); daughter Barbara (9/11/1893); son Dugald Archibald (4/8/1934); Donald McDonald (25/9/1936); Duncan McDonald (4/6/1916, in Calais); daughter Mary Elizabeth (7/11/1946, at 'Ardvoiach', Bishopbriggs). Son James McTaggart, eight years old in 1881, is missing from the inscriptions.

Daughter Mary Elizabeth, in 1945, the year before her death, recalled her uncle with affection in a letter to James Caw (9/3): 'I remember visiting an exhibition of Uncle Willie's pictures ... It was like the sun suddenly shining on a dull day What a great thing he did for the world, in leaving behind him such beauty I always think he put a bit of himself into them, and that is what made them so beautiful. It was himself'

Archibald (1833-1907)

Archibald was born on 27/4/1833 and baptised the day at1erwards. In Census 1851, when the McTaggart family was in Main Street, Archibald was described as a 'Grocer's Assistant'. He later joined the Inland Revenue and married Isabella Hunter, who was born in Campbeltown on 14/8/1 845. Her parents were William Hunter Jr., a watchmaker, and Jane Montgomery, both Campbeltown-born, though William's father, a clock-maker, was from Cumbrae. They appear to have been childless.

From Murdo MacDonald's researches, Archibald returned to Campbeltown presumably as an Excise Officer attached to one of the many local distilleries in 1875, when he took the tenancy of a house in High Street. Dalintober. A year later he leased another house, in George Street, still in Dalintober, and remained there until March 1890, when he bought Bayview, Low Askomil (Registers of Voters, Burgh of Campbeltown), a substantial house facing south across Campbeltown Loch. He would die there, in retirement, on 10/5/1907, aged 74. His estate was valued at £3,730 1s 3d, a very substantial sum in modem values.

To my disbelief, no obituary to him appeared in either the Argyllshire Herald or the Campbeltown Courier. He was a native of Kintyre; held a respectable position in town, in connection with the principal industry of the time; had been a resident of Campbeltown from 1875 until his death; and was known to be the artist's brother. When 'William McTaggart R.S.A.', by McTaggart's son-in-law, James L. Caw, was copied into the Argyllshire Herald (1/9/1894) from the August issue of Art Journal, a footnote was attached for the benefit of the readership: 'Mr McTaggart is a Campbeltonian and brother to Archibald McTaggart, Askomil Walk.'

In all the censuses recording Gaelic speakers in which Archibald appears 1881, 1891 and 1901 - he evidently denied knowledge of the language, which is remarkable, because he shared an upbringing with William, his brother, and was two years older than him; and William was known to be a fluent Gaelic speaker - see, e.g., p 16. (In The Companion to Scottish Gaelic, published in 1983, the editor, Derick R. Thomson, writes three lines about McTaggart, and Duncan Macmillan, under 'Gaelic art in modern times', specifically states, in the 20 lines devoted to McTaggart, that 'he was not a Gaelic speaker'.) There were, however, at that time, issues surrounding Gaelic and its perceived social worth. Archibald, who had climbed the social ladder to a comfortable middle-class perch in a community from which Gaelic was fast disappearing, may have let the language go and considered the question personally irrelevant.

Dugald (1838-1909)

Dugald was born on 10/4/1838 and baptised two days later. His birthplace in the parish register is given as 'Aros', which, as far as I can ascertain, is the only contemporaneous mention of the place in connection with the McTaggart family, apart from Dugald Senior's identification as an illicit whisky-distiller at 'Arus' in an earlier document. (A. Martin, Kintyre Country Lifee, p 194)

Dugald's birth at Aros in 1838 means that an assumption about the family's movements in the late 1830s should be revised. Errington (p 15), followed by Kvaerne (p 17), considered it 'likely' that Dugald McTaggart Snr., who was at Aros as a cottar - i.e. .. a smallholder without a lease - moved to the flush, between Campbeltown and Stewarton, when the farmer at Aros, Donald Maclean, gave up his tenancy in 1836. Dugald was supposed to have built a 'cottage' at the Flush 'with his own hands' (Kvaerne. p 17), but, if he did, he got little use of it, because by 1841, three years after young Dugald's birth, the McTaggart f~l1nily was resident in Campbeltown.

In the 1851 Census, Dugald Jnr., at the age of 13, is an apprentice tailor, the occupation he, like his brother Duncan, would pursue and turn into a self managed business. There were, in the mid-19th century, at least three McTaggart tailors/clothiers in Campbeltown - Edward, Malcolm, and John - and it is tempting to speculate on the exploitation of family connections in securing apprenticeships for Dugald's sons; but the genealogies of the MacTaggart families in South Kintyre must form a later project.

He married Margaret Abercrombie Johnston within the Established Church on 20/3/1863 in Glasgow. He was a 'journeyman tailor' living at 10 George Street, the address Elizabeth Morrison gave when she married his brother Duncan four years previously. Margaret gave her age as 20, was also living in Glasgow, and her parents were James Johnston, 'master tailor' - another tailor! - and Jane Glass. Dugald described his father as a farmer and his mother was 'Brodie' rather than Brolachan. The witnesses were W. McTaggart, presumably the bridegroom's brother, and Jane Johnston, presumably the bride's sister.

In the 1881 Census, 'Dougal', tailor and clothier, was in 96 Thistle Street, Glasgow, with his Dundee-born wife and nine children, all born in Glasgow: Dougal (17), tailor; Jane G. (15); William (13), office boy; Margaret A. J. (11); Barbara B. (9); Mary M. (7); Catherine J. (5); Grace H.T. (2); James (2 months). Dugald, who predeceased his wife, died, aged 71, on 19/9/1909 at 13 Temple Gardens, New Kilpatrick, Dumbarton, from senile decay and cardiac failure. His father was again a farmer. Dugald's death was registered by his daughter Barbara Brodie McTaggart, who, incidentally, was married to my wife Judy's great-great-uncle, William Nicol, a tailor and clothier in Hamilton.

William in 1853 painted a portrait of Dugald, which is reproduced in Kvaerne, p 23. It is a dark study in which Dugald, hands clasped over the knee of a crossed leg, resembles nothing less than a handsome swarthy Spaniard. Two letters from Dugald to William, undated, but belonging to the 1850s, touch on the poverty of the painter's family which he had left behind in Campbeltown. In the earlier letter Dugald enthuses: 'I was quite proud to hear of your sucksess - I think it was the first Paper I saw father Reading he was reading about the same spot always - you may guess what he was reading ... They were going to sell father's horse to pay the Roadmoney he is owin abought £2-15s he got them Peacsified for a litel.' In another letter, probably from 11\59, Dugald mentions his 'father's cough' and appeals for money to pay three months' rent arrears. William sent his family £6. (Kvaerne, p 32)

Barbara (c. 1840-).

Curiously, no record has been found for either Barbara's baptism or death, but she appears in the first national census aged four months and was therefore probably born at the end of 11\40 in School Lane, Campbeltown. Ten years later, when the family was living in Main Street, she was a 'scholar'. Whatever the duration of her education, at a time when the schooling of children was still a voluntary arrangement, she left school literate, for in 1860, when preparing to leave Campbeltown for domestic service in Glasgow, she wrote an appeal to her brother William for financial assistance: 'I was wishing you would send me what would help me to get a cloth c10ack to me before I would go away.' (Errington 1989, p 20) In that same year, she went through to Edinburgh and stayed with McTaggart for several weeks while he finished his painting The Wreck of the Hesperus, for which she was the model for the captain's dead daughter, lashed to a mast among the wreckage on the shore. (Caw 1917, p 33)

In 1861 she was at 220 Dumbarton Road, Glasgow, as a domestic servant to John Young and his wife Jessie. Young was a plumber and brass-founder and employed 14 men and eight boys in his business.

In 1869, she was living in Market Street, Greenock, when she married Samuel Orr, also in Greenock. He gave his age as 24 and she claimed to be 25, but was actually 28. In describing her father Dugald as a 'farmer', she committed another little deception, of which most of her siblings were also guilty. Singularly among her siblings, however, she gave her mother's name as Barbara 'Brolochan', using the Gaelic form which ultimately mutated into 'Brodie'. Samuel, who was unable to sign his name, worked as a 'sugar boiler'; Greenock was, of course, a centre of sugar-refining in Scotland. Their Free Church marriage in Glasgow was witnessed by Isabella Paterson and Charles Thomson.

In Census 1881, she was still in Greenock, at 43 Holmscroft Street, with her husband Samuel, described as 'sugarhouse labourer', born in Ireland, and two sons, Samuel Orr (7) and William Orr (2), both born in Greenock.

John (1843-1916)

The youngest of William's brothers, he was born on 20/10/1843 and baptised nine days later. He appears as a seven-year-old 'scholar' in the 1851 Campbeltown Census. In his brother Duncan's obituary, he is described as holding 'a position of great trust with Messrs Fisher and Bowie', painters in Glasgow, and he was a pall-bearer at his brother William's burial in Echo Bank (now Newington) Cemetery, Edinburgh, in 1910. (Argyllshire Herald, 9/4/1910) He was the last McTaggart brother when he died on 23/1/1916.

The 'position of great trust' quoted above was as cashier with C. T. Bowie, Fisher & Company. This was a firm of painters, but of an 'up-market' kind, and it is tempting to speculate if John's employment with the firm owed something to the influence, direct or indirect, of his famous brother. The business was established c. 1850 by an artist, Campbell Tait Bowie, who was joined some ten years later by a master house-painter, Daniel Fisher. The firm was based at 26 Bothwell Street, Glasgow, and executed a broad range of commissions, from city centre department stores to churches.

He married Mary McKim, a 'housekeeper', on 23/6/1871 in Glasgow, within the United Presbyterian Church. Both had Glasgow addresses (his was 15 Salisbury Street). He described himself as a 'painter's clerk', gave his father's occupation as 'farmer' and identified his mother as 'Barbara Brodie'. His wife's parents were Thomas McKim and Jessie Blair, and the witnesses were Archibald McTaggart, his brother, and Maggie McKim.

In the 1881 Census, John was living at 5 Elgin Place, Pollokshaws, Glasgow, with Glasgow-born Mary. He was described as a 'clerk to house painter' and there were no children recorded. At the time of his death, he lived at 'Carlton', 8 Campbell Street, Helensburgh, but he died - as a 'mercantile clerk' - at 194 Renfrew Street, Glasgow, described as a 'nursing home'. His death, from 'senile hypertrophy of prostate and cystitis', was registered by a nephew, Daniel Fife, in Renfrew. His estate, valued at £1,993 12s 5d, went to his wife, Mary.

Isabella (1847-1923) and Jean/Jane (1847-1924)

The twin sisters, Isabella and Jean, born on 27/7/1847 and baptised three days later, were the last children of Dugald and Barbara. They were not with the family in Main Street almost four years later, when the 1851 Campbeltown Census was taken, but I found 'Jane McTaggart', aged three and a 'visitor' in the Main Street house of Isabella McMillan, a 70-year-old widow, and her two dressmaker daughters, Janet (34) and Margaret (30). I am certain Jane McTaggart is the twin Jean (of which 'Jane' is an alternative form) and presume she just happened to be with the McMillans when the enumerator called.

But where was Isabella? Ten years on, in the 1861 Census of Campbeltown, a 13-year-old Isabella McTaggart was living at 10 Roading with an aunt, 55-your-our Jean Brodie, an unmarried 'seller of milk' and clearly the sister of Barbara Brolachan or Brodie, Isabella's mother.

Like their older sister Barbara, and many another young female in Scotland, the twins travelled into domestic service. In 1881, both were in Dunbartonshire. Isabella was alone in Rocklee House, 'Row' (Rhu), presumably having been left in charge in her employer's absence. Jane was in Hillside Villa, Old Kilpatrick, as nurse and domestic servant to Robert Assheton Napier - a ship-owner, lieutenant in the Royal Naval Reserve and scion of a famous engineering family - and his wife and five children.

Jane was married on 26/11/1891 at Jamaica Street, Glasgow, in the Free Church. Her husband was Jacob Cassidy, born in Ireland, a gardener in Pollokshaws, and son of James Cassidy, 'factory machine oiler', and Helen O'Brien. Jane was a domestic servant at Rossdhu Cottage, King Street, Helensburgh, and gave her father Dugald's occupation as 'crofter' and her age as 38: she was actually 44, and there is no evidence of any offspring. The witnesses were John Gilmore and Rosanna West,

In 1901. they were at 35 William Street, Helensburgh. Jacob described his occupation as 'gardener, not domestic', and was an 'employer', so he would appear to have been in business for himself.

Jane died of heart failure on 3/9/1923 in the Victoria Infirmary. Helensburgh. Her address was given as Woodbank Cottage. Helensburgh. Although her husband Jacob was still in life, Jane's death was registered by Mary McTaggart, wife of her brother John. who also lived in Helensburgh.

Isabella married two years after Jane. on 4/12/1893, and her husband, too, was a gardener. Like Jane, consciously or not she made herself younger: 41, when she should have been 46, but unlike Jane she elevated her father's occupation to that of 'farmer'. She and John Foulds wed at Kinning Park Free Church, Glasgow. He gave his age as 51, his address as 478 Pollokshaws Road, Glasgow, and his parents as Robert Foulds, gardener, and Lillian McKim. The name McKim is rare, yet Isabella's brother John's wife was Mary McKim. Was there a family connection between the two women'? Isabella's usual address was stated as 40 Dalziel Drive, Glasgow.

In 1901, Isabella and John were at 33 George Street, Millport, Isle of Cumbrae. He gave his birthplace as Perthshire and he was still working as a gardener. They had a daughter, Lilly, aged six and born in Dunoon. Isabella would have been 48 when Lilly was born; might Lilly have been adopted'?

Isabella died in Glasgow, at 108 Oran Street, Maryhill, on 25/11/1924, a year after her sister. She, too, had heart trouble and the cause of death was 'cardiac failure'.

Neither of the twins is mentioned in any biographical account of William I have seen. These omissions may be attributable to the 15 years which separated them in age - they were just four when he made his big move to study art in Edinburgh - and to the vastly different lives they led, the twins existing modestly in the West and William enjoying fame and its financial rewards in the East. Yet, they must have kept in touch with one another, perhaps more than is now possible to realize. Certainly, when the time came to register Isabella's death, the informant was 'H. H. MacTaggart, nephew, Hillwood, Loanhead, Midlothian'. He was named after his maternal grandfather, Hugh Holmes, and was William's first son by his first wife, Mary Brolochan Holmes, whom he married in 1863. She died in 1884 and William in 1910.

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