Farmers and Craftspeople:

Jenny Blain.
Copyright © J. Blain 2005-09
New findings: My father's family: Return to table of contents for further sections

My father's family

James Mushet and Helen Gorrie

James Wallace Mushet was born in 1804 in Kilmarnock, son of John Mushet, nailer later described as engine fitter, and Jean or Jane Hamilton. As a young man he left for Johnstone near Paisley, a journeyman variously described as engineer, engine fitter and iron moulder. Others of the Mushet family also heading for the bigger centres around that time were James, son of Archibald (brother of John), and Archibald son of James (brother of John), all in the same lines of work. This page will give part of their stories, but concentrate of James son of John, and his first wife Helen Gorrie.

Helen was from Perthshire, born around 1803. Her father, John Gorrie, farmed at Drum in Logiealmond, according to a legal deposition which Helen gave in 1822, the source of most of what is known about her. In Perthshire, several Gorries were associated with a farmtoun known as Coulnachloich or Condocloich, and 'Drum' is the name of the hill behind this settlement.

Helen had come to Johnstone in November 1820, as a domestic servant in the household of Dr Pinkerton, and one presumes she met James Wallace Mushet in this town. They were married in December 1821, the marriage recorded in Abbey parish. Shortly after this a plan seems to have been hatched to move to Glasgow, and Helen went there in February 1821 to look for lodgings. This however was not all that she did. The story is summarised briefly in a trial record in a Glasgow broadside online from 'The Word on the Street'.

More detail is available from the accuseds' depositions and other trial documents [1]. Helen had been staying with an elderly woman named Margaret Ritchie, in Alston Street, Grahamstown. While there, and before her husband's arrival, Helen took various items from drawers in the house, including clothes, sheets and a tablecloth, making these into a bundle. This was put into storage until they could move lodgings, and James believed that the bundle contained items sent by Helen's mother in Logiealmond.

The couple moved to Glasgow in March, and Helen retrieved the bundle. She then sold various of the items. Both she and James were charged with theft and held for trial. And as the trial record states, James pled not guilty and was dismissed, and Helen pled guilty. She was then taken unwell, and was 'removed from the bar', and remanded to gaol. Then, however, the sentence was revoked or absolved, apparently on the request of the Advocate Depute.

The depositions by both Helen and James make it quite clear that James had no knowledge of the theft. His dismissal does seem to show that the legal processes gave due weigh to these avowals. Helen's release, though, is rather more puzzling - she had pled guilty to theft, and the items while to us seeming few were of some worth, selling at three shillings and sixpence for linen sheets, four for the tablecloth, and three sillings and tenpence for a black silk petticoat. In a case heard earlier in the day, a 14-year-old boy charged with thefts of a similar level was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment with hard labour.

Her state of health may be the reason, and also that there seemed no reports of previous theft. A newspaper report states:

Shortly after, the Advocate-Depate prayed that sentence should not be passed, and departed from any further proceedings against here; and, to shew the humanity of our Public Prosecutor, an order was awaiting to entitle her to the benefit of our Infirmary, instead of imprisonment, or perhaps transportation. They are man and wife, but she is more like his mother than his wife.

James Mushet was aged 18 at the time. One assumes that he was young for his age. He later seems to have established a career in his trade, but at this time he may simply have seemed young, trusting and not street-wise. The illness of Helen Gorrie is not known. Her daughter Christina Mushet was born in 1822, but I do not have a date for the birth.

More to follow, about the family of Helen Gorrie and James Mushet, and the second marriage of James.

[1] I wish to thank my 'Mushet line' cousin Kathy who obtained the trial documents and gave me access to these.

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