Artisans in Industrial Scotland

Jenny Blain.
Copyright © J. Blain 1988, 2006, 2008
II My father's family
  1. William Blain and his parents and siblings
  2. The Knaggs line
  3. The Blain family (to follow)
Return to table of contents for further sections.

II My father family

The Knaggs line

George Knaggs, Maggie's father, was a sailmaker by trade, learning this craft initially on long voyaging ships including a tea cliipper, possibly the Thermopylae (WBdoc). On one voyage, calling at an Irish port, he met Elizabeth MacLachlan, and they were married in Greenock, in 1870 (WBdoc). He was then aged 21, and a a journeyman sailmaker: she 18, a 'Tailoress' unable to sign her name on the marriage record (NRH). The Church of Scotland marriage was witnessed by her parents, Robert and Elizabeth MacLachlan (M.S. Russell), who must therefore have accompanied her to Greenock. Robert's occupation, according to the marriage record, was that of sugar house labourer.[11b]

Their wedding-day photograph was still exant in the 1960s, when my father saw it.

He was a trimly-beared, dapper little man, she a bonnie colleen. The feature of those two are still to be seen in their descendants (WBdoc).

They were to have nine surviving children, plus, according to my father, several stillbirths, and one death of a child in an accident. George Knaggs remained a sailmaker, working on shipboard [12] until 1880, then based on land, with the firm of Ratsey and Lapthorn, sailmakers for racing yachts. He may have worked in the US for a while, before returning to Gourock. Eventually only two children were left at home, Lilias, who had succeeded Maggie Knaggs as her father's housekeeper and who was bringing up her sister Christina's two daughters, and John, the youngest. My father commented that John had advantages the others did not have, becoming an engineer at Scott's shipyard in Greenock.

My father remembered, at the age of seven or eight, visiting his grandfather in Gourock, in what was now

...quite a luxury flat for that period, with a splendid view across the firth, over the yachts at anchor in Cardwell Bay to Rhu, over the racing paddle steamers, Kilcreggan and the Cowal Hills. Whatever hardships there had been for the large family of earlier years, living on the wage of an ordinary craftsman, were now over for the widower father and his two remaining children. The wage was now that of a loft foreman and there were some fees coming in for advice to yacht owners (WBdoc)

George Knaggs lived until the late 1920s, appearing in a photograph described by my father, and which I now have, showing four generations of his family. He is seated, as is his daughter Maggie, with my father standing by them. On Maggie's knee is her eldest grandchild, my eldest brother Peter, aged about nine months, and fixing the picture's date within the last months of 1927. The photograph was a studio portrait commissioned by The Scottish Cooperator, a journal of the cooperative movement, of which George Knaggs chaired the Greenock branch. His daughter Maggie retained some links with the movement, and with the Labour Party.

The name 'Knaggs' is a highly unusual one in Scotland, coming from the east coast of England and being probably of Danish rather than Saxon or Celtic origin. The first George Knaggs on record as a family member came from Whitby, England [Ed. note: more accurately. Lythe, a couple of miles outside Whitby], a seaman, born in 1786, who arrived in Greenock about 1822, taking on the post of Clyde Pilot. In 1844 Queen Victoria visited Scoland, and George Knaggs piloted the royal yacht to the Tail o' the Bank (WBdoc), the natural deppwater harbour responsible for the success of the Greenock and Clydebank area as a port. He married in Greenock or Glasgow, and I have found a record of the birth of a Jean Kay Knaggs in 1830 to George Knaggs and Janet McNab, in Glasgow (CoS): given the unusual nature of the name, it may not be too far-fetched to supppose that this Janet may have been the mother of the second George Knaggs on record, described by my father as an owner of "boats that took people and supplies to and from the shipping that lay at the Tail, off Gourock, then a fishing village with red herrings as its trade" (WBdoc). [Ed comment: This material needs revising substantially. The first George Knaggs married several times, Mary Ann Anderson was the mother of the second George, and the first George had also arrived in the Clyde area much earlier - he was a deckhand on the Comet when young. See FN [13] about the second George]

My father believed that the wife of this second George Knaggs had the surname 'Grant'. It however appears from their son George's marriage record that she was Christina Mushet (NRH), and records show them as having several children (ML), although it may be that not all survived. I have not found the birth records of the sailmaker George Knaggs, probably the eldest child, or his sister Marion, who must have been born in the early 1850s, whose marriage is recorded in the same year as that of George, and whom my father remembers as living on the Greenock waterfront with her daughter, Maggie Burns, but at least another five children were born after 1855 (the date from which Scottish records are indexed and therefore easily accessible). It may be that the 'Grant' surname should occur earlier in the family, perhaps among Christina Mushet's ancestors, of whom I have [Ed: in 1988] found no traces. [13a]


[11b] Ed comment. Possibly they met in Ireland earlier. It is more likely that the MacLachlans had migrated to the Clyde area for work - the McLachlans were living in Crawford Lane in Greenock at the time of the 1871 census. However, Elizabeth was born in Ireland, from the 1881 census record, at which time her sister, also a tailoress, was staying with Elizabeth, George and five children. Details of McLachlan and Knaggs families will be at The Knaggs and McLachlan lines.

[12] But now one presumes on shorter voyages, given the rapid succession of births!

[13] This footnote originally said: The description 'Licensed Porter' which appears on his son's marriage record (NRH) bears this out: it refers to a transporter of carrier of people and goods by water, rather than someone who manually lifts and moves objects. Ed comment: from later information, it seems that 'licensed porter' or 'badge porter' does rather mean somebody carrying bags, from the station. This George Knaggs, however, earlier appears as an 'apprentice pilot' in a census. Whatever happened, his situation in 1861, as described in the census, was of living in a windowless household with his wife Christina Mushet and 7 children, which would be a far cry from that of a 'transporter by water'. Like so many others, this family had come down in the world.

[13a] Thanks to several other descendents of Christina Mushet and George Knaggs, I now have rather more full information which I will endeavour to place here at a later date. Also for the earlier history of the Knaggs family in Lythe, near Whitby, and the later history of those who stayed there, please see the webpages of Jeffrey Knaggs who is a rather distant cousin, also descended from the Knaggs in Yorkshire

Go to sections on the Blain line
Return to table of contents.