Farmers and Craftspeople:

Jenny Blain.
Copyright © J. Blain 2005-08

My father's family

Wigtownshire to Greenock

William Blain and Mary Maxwell

My father William Blain was the son of Peter Blain, in turn the son of an earlier William who married Mary Bell Philip. Their story was in the earlier part of this document. Here I explore the story of that earlier William Blain and his ancestors, about whom I had no information when I wrote the 1988 paper. Now I do have some, though information on these Blains is still somewhat patchy. This document discusses William Blain b. 1837 and his siblings, and their parents' marriage. Speculations on his ancesty are in the document about Wigtownshire farmers.

William Blain was born in 1837. His birth is recorded in two parishes in Wigtownshire; Inch and Stranraer. The parish records say only:

Wm Blain, lawful son of Wm Blain & Mary Maxwell born 29th July, 1837, baptized on 11 Jan, 1838.

In the 1841 census the family is living in Sun Street in Stranraer.

BLAIN William M 45 Ag Lab (birthplace)(Wigtownshire
BLAIN JessF 20
BLAIN Thomas M12
BLAIN Peter M10
BLAIN Robert M6
BLAIN William M2

William was the youngest of a family spread out over more than twenty years. The marriage of William Blain and Mary Maxwell is noted in Inch in 1812. However theirs was one of a number of marriages conducted by a minister named Alexander Goudy in County Down. The Inch parish records say:

December 13th, 1812
William Blain and Mary Maxwel appeared before this session this day & produced lines of their being married by Alexander Goudy at Donaghadee 19th February 1812 but the Session finding thus - No marriage according to the Rules of the Church of Scotland. The Moderator asked the said Wm Blain if he acknowledged Mary Maxwel as his lawful married wife. Hearing he did. The Moderator asked Mary Maxwel if she acknowledged said Wm Blain as her lawful married husband. The Moderator then declared the Parties lawful married Persons before God and the Witnesses. Closed with Prayer.

Marriages such as this occur quite regularly in the Inch records, being recorded in the same form of words. Alexander Goudy seems to have been quite well-known.

The ages of the elder William, Mary and their daughter Jess (possibly Janet) in the 1841 census are rounded down. From this document, William could have been around 45-50, Mary 40-45, or perhaps a few years older. Mary's last child was born in 1837 and hence must have been aged three not two. William and Mary do not appear in later censuses and I have not found records of their deaths. It is likely that William and Mary died before 1851: alternatively they may have gone to Ireland, or emigrated, though this seems less likely.

Until very recently I was unable to find any trace of their children in the 1851 census, although I had found a possible marriage for John (born 1820). I now have evidence for the household of John's widow in the 1851 census, including his younger brothers Robert and William. The others remain a mystery - Jessie or Janet may have married, or she, Thomas and Peter may have emigrated or died between 1841 and 1851. I'd speculated there may have been an older child, James (and possibly a Mary) but have no evidence for these.

There is one record in 1851 census that may possibly be Thomas - a Thomas Blane, birthplace Stranraer, apprentice Ship Carpenter, a lodger in a household in East Greenock, aged 22. This seems quite likely but there is no further evidence as yet.

I will first discuss the households of William the younger, from 1860 onwards, then return to the marriage of John and the evidence of the 1851 census.

In Greenock: William Blain and Mary Philip

By 1860 the younger William was in Greenock, where he married Mary Bell Philip on 1st September. He became a boilermaker, as did his elder brother Robert. In 1861 the younger William and Mary, aged 23 and 22, are living in number 4 Lower Ingleston in East Greenock. By 1871 William has developed a new trade, as a spirit dealer (and probably a brewer, according to my father's information), and he and Mary are in Greenock's middle parish with children as shown below.

John 10 b. Renfrewshire Greenock
Mary8Renfrewshire Renfrew
William6Renfrewshire Renfrew
Robert4Renfrewshire Greenock

Birthplaces are Stranraer for William, Leith, Midlothian for Mary. Clearly the family has moved several times. By 1881 they are in 60 Dumfrochar Rd, West Greenock, and William has reverted to his trade of boilermaker. John the eldest child has become a cooper (following the trade of his mother's stepfather, Allan McLean) as has Mary now aged 17. The Allan from the 1871 census has died in an accident in 1873, and a later child, aged 6 in 1881, is named Allan - both were baptised after their step-grandfather, as Allan McLean Blain. Other new children are Janet (known as Jessie) aged 2, Jane aged 5, and my grandfather Peter, aged 8. At least one other child, James, was born after 1881.

William Blain remained at 60 Drumfrochar Road until his death in 1902, following an accident at work on 2nd April when 'the tumbler of a shaft bracket' fell on him. He died at Greenock Infirmary on the 7th. Mary Philip his wife died on 25 September 1886, from heart disease (not as my father thought in childbirth).

William's brother Robert, born around 1835, probably in Inch or Stranraer, also became a boilermaker according to his death record. I'd earlier thought he might be the Robert Blain who appears in the 1881 census in Port Glasgow, a lodger at 63 Brown Street, unmarried, aged 44 and born in Stranraer, identified there as a blacksmith. While this is possible, the trade is unikely - he may rather have been elsewhere at the time of the census, possibly in England, depending on how his trade of boilermaker related to that of the Greenock economy. (A cousin has commented on there being a Robert Blain in Silvertown in East London in the early 1890s: Abraham Lyle (of sugar fame) had opened a new sugar refinery there in the 1880s and various skilled workers from Lyle's Greenock refinery had gone to the new plant. While the trade of 'boilermaker' can mean one who makes steam engine boilers, it can also refer to a worker for the sugar industry.)

There is a census entry for a Robert Blain, of the right age, born in Stranraer, in Greenock in the 1891 census, in the household of his son John. However this Robert is rivetter, and the Robert brother of William is said to have been single at his death. It may be more likely, therefore, that Robert Blain was in London and returned to Greenock. He died of cardiac failure in his brother William's house at 60 Drumfrochar Road in Greenock, on 17th September 1901.

William's eldest brother for whom I have evidence, John, born in 1820, does not appear in the Wigtownshire 1841 census. He had already moved to Greenock. A John Maxwell Blain, carpenter, was married to Helen Cracken, the proclamation in East Greenock being on 16th November 1845. The actual marriage may have been in Wigtownshire - Helen was born in Stoneykirk, and a child of this marriage was also born in Kirkmaiden, in 1845-6. The 1851 census shows the household: Helen is presumably widowed, and her two brother-in-law, Robert and William, are shown as boilermakers.

Hellen Blaine head33Lodging-house keeper b. Wigton Stoneykirk
Jamesson5Do. Kirkmaiden
Robertnephew17BoilermakerDo. Inch
Williamdo.12BoilermakerDo. Inch
William CarruthersLodger25CarpenterDo. Stoneykirk
John Ewingdo.25CarterRenfrew Paisley

I have no further information about John, or about the other siblings of William and Robert, or indeed about Helen Cracken or Blain and her son James.

Speculations on the ancestry of William Blain are in the document on Wigtownshire Blains: farming families and change.

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