Sue Innes Memorial Lecture 2017 – Listen now!

Lesley starting her lecture © E. McCrae

On Thursday night (19 October) we were very lucky to have Lesley Orr giving this year’s Sue Innes Memorial Lecture entitled –“To Build the New Jerusalem” Women’s claims to equal citizenship in Scottish church and nation, c.1918 – 1945′. The lecture was co-hosted by the University of Edinburgh Centre for Theology and Public Issues at New College, University of Edinburgh.

Lesley was a close friend of Sue’s as were many in attendance. Sue’s work as an activist, journalist and historian continues to inspire historians of women and gender in Scotland and it was fascinating to see the influence that Sue’s work on citizenship and feminism has had on Lesley’s own research on women’s demands for equality in the ministry of the church in the interwar years and beyond.

Sue’s work on the Edinburgh Women’s Citizenship Association has been particularly influential on my own work on women’s organisations and interwar feminism in Scotland. However, I hadn’t really considered the role that the church had played in the lives of so many of the leaders of feminist organisations in Glasgow and Edinburgh, even thought I was obviously aware of the links between church women’s guilds and the women’s citizens associations. I had completely taken it for granted that women who were influential in the overtly feminist and largely middle-class women’s organisations in urban Scotland would be ‘respectable’ church-going women, but hadn’t thought of how their Christianity shaped their feminism. Lesley certainly has given me a lot to think about!

I particularly enjoyed learning more about Euphemia Somerville, Eunice Murray and especially Vera Kenmure (Findlay) who became the first official female minister in Partick in 1928 and later established her own church as well as being a figure head in Glasgow for women’s equality.

(There are entries on each in The Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women if you’d like to find out more)

Don’t worry if you missed Lesley’s lecture you can catch up on Soundcloud by clicking on the following:

Valerie Wright  (University of Glasgow)

*** Sue Innes Memorial Lecture 2017 *** 19 October

 ‘“To Build the New Jerusalem” Women’s claims to equal citizenship in Scottish church and nation, c.1918 – 1945′

Dr Lesley Orr

Thursday 19 October 2017, 5.30pm,

Martin Hall, New College, University of Edinburgh

Sue Innes was an inspiring and influential historian, journalist and feminist activist. She was among the founding members of Women’s History Scotland (then known as Scottish Women’s History Network), and was co-editor of the Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women, which is dedicated to her. Sue died in 2005, and the annual Sue Innes Memorial Lecture serves to celebrate her life, including her commitment to encouraging women’s and gender history – in and of Scotland.

This year’s speaker is Dr Lesley Orr (University of Edinburgh). In common with others who have been invited to give the lecture, she knew Sue personally. Her lecture, entitled “To Build the New Jerusalem” Women’s claims to equal citizenship in Scottish church and nation, c.1918 – 1945′ takes a central theme of Sue’s own doctoral thesis – the meaning of citizenship to newly enfranchised women in Scotland – as its starting point.

This year’s Sue Innes Memorial Lecture is co-hosted by the University of Edinburgh Centre for Theology and Public Issues. It will be followed by a drinks reception in the Rainy Hall, New College.

All welcome – attendance is free, but registration is required.

Register via eventbrite 

 

Out Gallivanting: Glasgow School of Art Graduate Degree Show

So last weekend was busy! Out Gallivanting again on Sunday (3 September). This time just a short train journey to Glasgow to see the Glasgow School of Art Graduate Degree Show.

I’ve been fortunate over the last few months to meet Anna Tüdos and Gina Lundy both studying for Masters degrees at Glasgow School of Art. Their respective work is thought provoking and crucially focuses on women, their experiences and history. Both have created and curated works that are visually striking too.

Anna has been studying for a MLitt in Curatorial Practice with an emphasis on Contemporary Art and she is particularly interested in exploring hidden histories and under represented issues often through unconventional ways of mediating art. I first met Anna when she was working with Kinning Park Complex to mark the 21st anniversary of the sit-in which saved the then community centre from closure. Anna curated a series of events entitled ‘March On:  A celebration of the power of collective voice‘ which included a parade with specially commissioned banners by Greer Pester influenced by the area’s history and specifically drawing on a talk given by Sue Rawcliffe, a PhD researcher at the University of Strathclyde on the Kinning Park Cooperative Women’s Guild (the first in Scotland and prominent in the Rent Strike of 1915). Women continued to be prominent in community protest in the area including the sit-in of 1996. Anastasia Rice‘s ‘All Welcome’ banner, created for the sit-in, and featuring the work of 25 women, was installed as part of Anna’s week long exhibition. Gorbals and Laurieston Cooperative Women’s Guild Branch banner also featured for one day only on the 16th of July, generously supported by Fiona Hughes social history curator and Helen Hughes textiles conservator from Glasgow Life.

For the degree show Anna has installed Greer’s banner along with a video of the parade (produced by Jarvis Gray Films).

Both give a real sense of the energy of the people who use Kinning Park Complex, of the community that has been maintained as a result of collective action and of the importance of the area’s history in shaping current projects. While I missed the parade back in July, having attended other events at the Complex, I think Anna has really captured the spirit of the area and it’s history in her curatorial work. The girls liked it too, especially the end of the film when everybody cheered and the fact that that they could bring home a free poster.


I met Gina only over a week ago at the Q&A for Dispossession at the Glasgow Film Theatre, in which her work features prominently. Gina is a (Glasgow based) photographer who has been creating work around social housing in London since 2010. Since moving to Glasgow two years ago she’s been creating research into women’s voices within the current housing crisis through interviews with resident campaigners and protest groups. She’s also been studying for a MRes in Creative Practices. Gina is particularly interested in the disproportionate impact of austerity cuts on women.

Gina’s work draws upon women’s personal histories and their activism when their homes, neighbourhoods and communities are under threat. There are many parallels to be drawn with similar action taken by women in the past, again the 1915 rent strike comes to mind, as does the campaigns against dampness in council housing in the 1970s, the poll tax in the early 1990s and more recently the bedroom tax. Grassroots campaigns by women are everywhere in our history when we think of threatened school closures; funding cuts to public services such as libraries and maternity units; and demands for improved housing conditons.

Gina uses women’s own words in her work, we are hearing their thoughts and feelings and this is very powerful. Similarly many of the women who were photographed for the project are ‘hidden’ in images only to be revealed from another angle, symbolic of the way in which women’s voices can be marginalised in debates around housing redevelopment at a national level. Yet through Gina’s work we see them and hear their voices.

We were all very impressed by Gina’s work.


You can see more of Anna’s work on the GSA flickr account and can find out more about Gina’s project ‘Fantastic New Community’ and her other work on her website


Valerie Wright (University of Glasgow)

Out Gallivanting: Speaking Out Celebration Conference

Saturday (2nd September 2017) was a lovely day for a trip to Dundee (it’s always sunny in Dundee!)

It was an early start from Glasgow, but we didn’t mind as we were heading to celebrate all of the great work that has been achieved by the volunteers and staff at Speaking Out, the ongoing oral history project to record the history of Women’s Aid throughout Scotland over the last 40 plus years. And there is a lot to celebrate!


© Glasgow Women’s Library, Scottish Women’s Aid Archive

The day opened with the Dundee Women’s Aid choir welcoming us to the Steeple, a lovely venue at the heart of the city centre,

Marsha Scott of Scottish Women’s Aid then provided a short welcome and introduction, then Lesley Orr explained how the Speaking Out project had come about and underlined the need to record the history of the Women’s Aid movement given it’s significance as a crucial social movement in Scotland. As always Lesley’s words were inspiring!

As were the words of the pioneers of the movement in Scotland. Such women, working voluntarily to help each other were ‘Rocking the Status Quo’:

Our very own Hannah Telling was up next to discuss the longevity of inaccurate discourses of violence against women which have regularly portrayed perpetrators as working class and survivors as provoking violence. The continuation of such myths from the nineteenth century to the present day was striking. But as Hannah concluded Scottish Women’s Aid have actively challenged these discourses by opposing violence against women in all forms and by providing support and practical help for women of all backgrounds throughout Scotland since the early 1970s. Important work which they continue to do today.

Before lunch we attended a break-out session on the making of the Speaking Out film which features clips of some of the women interviewed for the project, both workers in refuges and service users. Sarah Browne underlined the importance of sensitive training in oral history interviewing. The dedication and professionalism of all of the volunteers, as well as the Speaking Out team, has resulted in a unique resource for researchers, students and for the Women’s Aid movement itself.

After lunch we had an energising performance of poetry from Mridul Wadhwa which was another highlight of the day.

Then we attended another break out session in which we learned about the Scottish Women’s Aid archive at Glasgow Women’s Library where the project archivists Elizabeth O’Brien and Nicola Maksymuik  told us about the collection and volunteer Yvonne McFadden shared her experience of working on comprehensively cateloguing the newspaper clippings collection. Yvonne explained that it could be emotional work which would often make her angry given the portrayal of survivors of violence as ‘asking for it’. However, while the continuities could be depressing, the work to combat violence against women as evidenced in the newspaper clippings was energising too. The database that Elizabeth, Nicola and Yvonne have been working on will soon be available on the Glasgow Women’s Library online catelogue.

We then heard from the volunteer panel of Dot Aidulis, Yvonne McFadden and Morag Allan Campbell who shared their experience of volunteering in various capacities in the Speaking Out project. Yvonne, a historian and researcher, spoke of how working on Speaking Out has re-ignited her interest in history and led to new friendships and experiences she wouldn’t have had otherwise. For Morag, volunteering on Speaking Out while making the transition from full-time office work to PhD research, has given her confidence and strength.

Dot spoke eloquently and powerfully of her experience as a service user, of hearing about the Speaking Out project at another event and of approaching the team to take part. She spoke of coming across a small leaflet for women’s aid while living with her abusive partner. This ‘planted a seed’ and made her aware of a whole support system out there that could help her. That feeling built up and was instrumental in helping her to  find the courage and confidence to leave. Dot called Women’s Aid soon after she got to Glasgow and has received great practical and emotional support over the years. For Dot the power of Women’s Aid was in telling her story and being believed. Dot has achieved so much in her life, before and after living with her ex partner. It was truly inspiring and very emotional to hear her talk of her pride in participating in committees in the Scottish Parliament discussing violence against women. I’m glad that we have Dot advocating for women in Scotland! I’m glad that all of the volunteers in Speaking Out have given their time, expertise and knowledge to such a worthy and truly collaborative project.

The day ended with a rousing and thought provoking talk from Lesley Riddoch on the importance of doing politics differently and the need for local power which would increase women’s participation. She suggested we needed a reordering of society to prioritise the average rather than the elites. The effectiveness of grassroots social movements like Scottish Women’s Aid in making women’s voices heard was crucial in establishing such local power for everyone. Lesley certainly gave us lots to think about.


Women’s History Scotland is a partner in the project along with the Glasgow Women’s Library and the Centre for Gender History at the University of Glasgow.

If you’d like to know more about the history of, and contemporary, campaigns against violence against women in Scotland see:

And if you’d like to learn more why not participate in Strathclyde University’s Massive Open Online Course ‘Understanding Violence Against Women’ where you’d be learning with Roisin McGoldrick and Anni Donaldson

 

Out Gallivanting: ‘1745’ and Glasgow Slavery Remembrance

Last Thursday night (24th August) the Kinning Park Complex‘s weekly Community Meal took the form of a special event to mark UNESCO‘s designated ‘International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition’. Organised by poet and author Kate Tough, this was a thought provoking and energising evening of lovely food (provided by Küche), good company and interesting discussion.

© 1745 film (https://www.edfilmfest.org.uk/2017/1745)

However the highlight for me was the acclaimed short film ‘1745‘, which is about two enslaved sisters escaping into the Scottish wilderness against the back drop of other well known events in Scottish history. Sisters , and  play the lead roles and their performances are excellent. It is a haunting and evocative portrayal of what life may have been like for the African women captured, enslaved and forced to work in grand houses in Scotland in the eighteenth century. Their reasons for taking the risk of escaping their oppression are made all to clear. I hope Morayo and Moyo are successful in their indiegogo campaign to fund a full length feature. This is very much a story that needs to be told.

The University of Glasgow’s ‘Runaway Slaves‘ research project were advisers to the filmmakers and Nelson Mundell was present with Zandra Yeaman of the Coalition of Racial Equality and Rights to lead the discussion following the film along with Kate.


Over recent weeks there has been increasing discussion of Glasgow’s historic connections to the slave trade and the legacy of this for the city. This is not surprising given events in the United States relating to the removal of confederate monuments and the resulting backlash from white supremacists.

Glasgow’s eighteenth-century built environment and architecture was shaped by Tobacco Lords and West India merchants, in what is now rebranded the Merchant City’. This was paid for by the wealth generated by the trade in enslaved Africans and the products of their labour. Similarly Glasgow’s cotton industry had a direct link with the plantations in North America. Industries throughout Scotland were developed in the 19th Century by industrialists and capitalists who had made their fortunes not only through their own entrepreneurial endeavours, but through speculative investments in Sugar and Cotton. Glasgow is not alone in this. Cities and towns throughout Scotland benefited from the money made by individuals through ownership and investment in slave plantations.

For some commentators Scotland is yet to come to terms with this legacy given the lack of permanent exhibition space or a museum to acknowledge the role of slavery in the nation’s development. However for others, acknowledgement of Glasgow’s and Scotland’s prominent role in the accumulation of wealth from the trading in captured and enslaved Africans is well on its way to becoming mainstream and a well-known part of the city’s and nation’s history.

Discussions are ongoing and will continue in Glasgow and beyond with a series of events in the next few months.

If you are interested in finding out more about the legacy of slavery in Glasgow see:

Stephen Mullen‘s It Wisnae Us The Truth About Glasgow and Slavery (The Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights worked with the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) to launch this publication detailing the true role of Glasgow in the trans Atlantic slave trade)

University of Glasgow research project – Runaway Slaves in Britain: bondage, freedom and race in the eighteenth century

For more information on upcoming events in Glasgow and beyond see:

Black History Month – for listings see http://www.crer.scot/black-history and http://www.blackhistorymonth.org.uk/listings/region/scotland/

Africa in Motion (AiM) film festival

Kate Tough’s website where you’ll find details about Glasgow Slavery Remembrance

News & Events

The history of women’s football in Scotland

Last month to mark the beginning of Euro 2017 Channel 4 screened a documentary about the fascinating history of women’s football entitled ‘When Football Banned Women‘.  In this post Dr Fiona Skillen (Glasgow Caledonian University) tells us more about the history of women’s football in Scotland:

Adapted from F. Skillen, Women, Sport and Modernity in Interwar Britain (Oxford: Peter Lang, 2013)

Scotland’s women’s team in 1895

Scotland played a fundamental role in the development of women’s football. Fragmentary evidence suggests that women were playing football as far back as the 16th Century in Scotland. [1] The first international match in the World, was a Scotland women’s international match versus England played in Edinburgh in May 1881.[2] There seems to have been an increase in participation, or at the very least media coverage during the 1880s and 1890s.

Numbers of women playing football increased tremendously during the First World War. Whilst undertaking war work in factories women were encouraged to play football. There are many theories about why women were encouraged to take part in what was considered a ‘man’s game’. One theory is that factory owners and managers wanted to increase women worker’s fitness levels, whilst another is that playing football during their breaks would stop them from causing problems. It is equally possible that the women themselves simply took the opportunity to get involved in a sport which was no doubt familiar to them but in which their active participation was discouraged. Whatever the reason women’s football was popular amongst women in a way that it had never been before and arguably only equaled again in recent years.

This increased participation continued into the interwar period. There is considerable evidence that women played football in the interwar period across Britain. We don’t know exact numbers of women playing football during this period, however there were enough for local teams and even leagues to be formed. Many of these were factory teams which played public matches attracting large crowds in the thousands, raising money for war relief charities. Dick Kerr’s famous women’s factory team played several times in Scotland against local teams and in front of large crowds of spectators during 1920 and 1921.

However, it was these charity matches which have been cited as the game’s downfall. In 1921, the Football Association withdrew all support for women’s football and the subsequent adoption of the policy by the Scottish Football Association ensured that women’s football in Scotland was severely curtailed.[3] The football authorities banned women on the basis that the believed that some of the money from these charity matches was being mis-appropriated. There is no evidence to substantiate these claims.

A later Scottish team – date unknown 

Regardless of the official reasons stated, this step to ban women’s engagement in the game could be seen as a reflection of society’s wider disapproval of women’s playing football. Throughout the interwar period there had been increasing discussions in the press over women’s suitability for the game. Many of the criticisms leveled at women’s early participation in other sports during the nineteenth century were re-asserted in relation to football in this period. It was viewed by some, including members of the medical profession, as too physically demanding, dangerous and unfeminine. This formal ban, representing official disapproval of women’s participation in football, ensured that pressure was put on local clubs to withdraw access to pitches and changing facilities, undermining the ability of many teams to play. McCaig has argued that the problems of access and lack of support, brought about in large part because of these new policies, retarded the development of women’s football in Scotland and it was not until the end of the 1930s that many women’s clubs reformed and sought out non-SFA affiliated pitches to play on.[4]

It was not until 1971 that the SFA ban was overturned and the Scottish Women’s Football Association was established. The first international matches since the ban took place in 1972.

 Toasting a win in the 1970s 

Since the 1970s women’s football in Scotland has continued to grow with Scotland’s women’s national football team qualifying for their first major tournament, Euro 2017.

Women’s football has a long, if relatively under-researched history in Scotland. If you’d like to know a little more why not check out the following links:


For further information why not watch the BBC Alba documentary, Honeyballers

Read more about the roots of Scottish women’s football and the role of Florence Dixie as part of the Dangerous Women Project:

Or visit Stuart Gibb’s touring exhibition ‘Game for Girls’


[1] F. P. Magoun, Jr, ‘Scottish Popular Football, 1424-1815’, The American Historical Review, Vol.37:1, 1931, p.11

[2] F Skillen, Women, Sport and Modernity in Interwar Britain, F Skillen, (Oxford: Peter Lang, 2013), p.190.

[3] Herald (6 December 1921).

[4] F Skillen, Women, Sport and Modernity, p.190.

Out Gallivanting – ‘Scotland’s Far North’ and ‘Lost Glasgow’

This month in Glasgow there are two photography exhibitions which are a must see for anyone interested in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland in the 1970s and for those of us who love Lost Glasgow on facebook.

So on Saturday I dragged my wee one along and saw the two exhibits in one day:

First, ‘Scotland’s Far North’ which is currently on at Streetlevel Photoworks and includes the work of three photographers Chick Chalmers, Tom Kidd and Glyn Satterley.

 

Streetlevel describe the exhibition as follows:

These three bodies of work from the late 1970s provide a unique insight into Scotlandʼs remote landscape, islands and people. Glyn Satterleyʼs series presents a document of life in the neglected area of Caithness and Sutherland at a time when the myth was much banded about that the oil industry brought wealth and prosperity to the whole of Scotland. Chick Chalmers ʻOrkneyʼ project and Tom Kiddʼs ʻShetlandʼ both present fascinating photographic insights of these island archipelago’s at a time of change with the effects of the oil industry on the traditional life of these cultures. Candid and sympathetic, the images show that Scotlandʼs Far North managed to take its place in the modern world without losing too many of the customs and traditions which give these places their special character and ethos.

For me this exhibition really challenges the stereotypical images of the Highlands and Islands. Yes there are sheep, fishermen, farmers and scenery, but there is so much more – we see the everyday working lives from women putting together the local paper by hand (above © Glyn Satterley), tattie picking, weaving, men washing windows and arguing in pubs. We also see the annual events such as Stromness Shopping Week fancy dress parade, the yard of ale competition and my favourite the ‘tossing the broom’ competition. I also liked the domestic scenes such as ‘John and Jeanie with pet lamb’ (above © Tom Kidd) or Fay and her son, described as ‘incomers’ on Sanday (below)

‘Roadside Graffiti, north of Scourie, Sutherland’ is also interesting (above © Glyn Satterley ).

But I think the image that made me think the most was this one

The caption read

‘Because she committed suicide, a 24 year old girl was rejected by both parishes on Hoy and consequently buried on the parish border in an out-of-the-way place. The 90 year old grave is attended by a sympathetic visitor’.

I wondered how widespread this practice was. As a historian of the twentieth century I have no idea how taboo suicide was in the nineteenth century in Orkney, though I can imagine. I’ll need to find out.

My daughter Caroline’s favourite was this one:

After I’d read the caption to her –  ‘North Ronaldsay has a unique breed of sheep which live outside a dyke built around the island. They eat mainly seaweed’ – she said ‘I’ll call him Ronald, take a photo so I can show Ronald to Dad’. So that cheered me up after the previous image.


Then we went off to see the ‘Lost Glasgow: More than just memories‘ exhibition at the Glasgow City Heritage Trust . Although I’d seen some of the images on the facebook page, the highlight was that you could pick up the pictures of the rails to read the captions. Caroline in particular really loved this, and although it was busy we still had a chance to see all the photos.

Our joint favourite was this one of the wee girls making clothes for their dolls (© Daily Record).

Norrie, who runs Lost Glasgow, was also on hand to have a wee chat. He has been enjoying how many people have recognised relatives and friends in the old photos of the city and all the stories he’s been hearing.


If you’ve not had a chance to visit either exhibition you still have time:

‘Scotland’s Far North’ runs until 27th August

Lost Glasgow‘ runs until the 30 August

 

Valerie Wright (University of Glasgow)

Finding Margaret Morice

Dr Deborah Simonton, University of Southern Denmark

This blog post first featured on the North American Conference on British Studies website on 10 April 2015 – http://www.nacbs.org/blog/finding-margaret-morice/

Detail from:  Milne, Alexander, fl. 1789-1818, ‘A plan of the City of Aberdeen with all the inclosures surrounding the town to the adjacent country, from a survey taken 1789’, http://maps.nls.uk/towns/rec/311.  ©National Library of Scotland 

I ‘met’ Margaret Morice in 1998. I had just finished writing A History of European Women’s Work.[1] Needing to get into some real primary research and since I was working at Aberdeen University, I asked myself the fairly simple question, ‘What kind of work were women doing in eighteenth-century Aberdeen?’ It was provoked by a number of factors, curiosity not being the least of them.

One of the first steps was a visit to Aberdeen City Archives, one of the best in Scotland. The initial visit was a bit demoralising, because the staff could only suggest the usual finding aids. Undeterred, I trundled through these and found the Register of Apprentices. This produced the first surprise, and was where I first found Margaret. The surprise was that with the exception of one entry for another female baker, she was the only one recorded—but in regular entries, between 1776 and 1797 she traded as ‘Margaret Morice and Co., baker in Aberdeen’.[2] This is notable on a number of levels. The bakers along with the weavers were seen as the most prestigious of the seven Incorporated Trades in Aberdeen and as their historian insisted:

Notably in Aberdeen, the baking of loaf and biscuit bread has been preserved as a strict monopoly for the men bakers. According to the acts and ordinances of the Baker craft in Aberdeen, women were not allowed to bake any bread, pastry, or pies to be sold in the streets or chops, a restriction that was maintained until the abolition of trading privileges in 1846.[3]

She also traded using her married name, when most Scots women kept their family name. She did so, I believe, because it furthered her commercial position as a widow.

Her husband had not been recorded in the Aberdeen Register of Apprentices, which misled me until I discovered that his were recorded in the Inland Revenue Apprenticeship Registers. She, in contrast, appeared only once at Inland Revenue; all of her apprentices followed his death.[4] As a relatively prominent member of the Incorporated Trades, and their Council representative from time to time, he would have paid the stamp duty and ensure that his apprentices were properly recorded. On the one occasion when she did, she had just ended a partnership with a previous apprentice. (She twice entered into such a partnership.) Thus a ‘properly’ registered apprentice may have been essential to retaining the prestige of the business. Over the 30 years that she ran the business herself, she apprenticed 16 boys from the tradesman classes (compared with John’s 12 over 25 years). The apprentice fee and the boys’ terms of service compared well with those for male bakers, including John’s, in Aberdeen, Essex, Birmingham and Staffordshire.[5]

This discovery sent me on a trail, which I followed alongside other research on Gender in European Towns.[6] In fact, I became addicted to finding Margaret Morice. Since there was little business information available in the archives, I turned to the parish records of births, deaths and marriages, available on microfilm in the Local Studies section of the Public Library. Here I found her birth in 1710 (though there is some doubt) and the birth of her seven children, including twins, beginning in 1739 and ending in 1750. Through serendipity, tucked in the back of the Council records, I found a notice of John’s burial in January of 1770, when she was 52. These also noted the death of a ‘child of John Morice’ on a couple of occasions. Thinking laterally, I tried Ancestry.com, and found the death of four of the children at very young ages. The eldest, David, and the female twin, Barbara, have a bigger part to play in her story. The seventh is still AWOL.

Trying a different line of enquiry, I went to the National Archives of Scotland (now National Records of Scotland), hoping for a will or inventory—no luck. I did however find window and inhabited house tax lists, showing her to have paid these through much of the same period that she was taking apprentices. Council Enactment Books added snippets here and there, mostly about John, but clarified that the bakery was well-established, that they owned the property from 1752 and that he was gradually building up a business and political persona. I felt I was coming closer to ‘seeing’ her, but frustratingly still with a great deal of speculation on my side. Through various venues, and thinking outside the box from time to time, gradually her story was becoming more and more visible—but still with gaps and a sense of incompleteness.

A return visit to the Archives, delayed by my move to Denmark, and assisted greatly by a Strathmartine Trust grant, turned out to be an epiphanic experience.[7] On arrival, Fiona Musk, the archivist, simply asked what I was trying to do. Not very optimistically, I told her, and then said flippantly, ‘What I would really like to do is find Margaret Morice’, literally locate her in the town. I knew roughly where the business was but her response, ‘I am sure I have seen her name on a map’, was astonishing after sixteen years of looking. A couple of hours later, she left the search room and returned with a bundle, and there was Margaret, on the plans for the ‘New Street‘ (now Union Street)—in one of the houses to be demolished.[8] And now, I confess, I did a dance in the record office to the amusement of the other four people in the room.

Map of Aberdeen with Margaret’s house marked (2) ©David Hastie

Margaret’s house also features in the image on the cover of The Routledge History Handbook of Gender and the Urban Experience

Furthermore, Fiona pulled up the records of saisine, which previously I had been told would be useless, to unfold the story of the property from John’s purchase to its sale to the Council in 1800. At first perplexed as to who the sellers were, two boys named Abercrombie, through antiquarian books in the Record Office, we identified that they were her grandsons, sons of her daughter Barbara, the second wife of an esteemed clergyman. This bundle corroborated and clarified the narrative of David’s bankruptcy and Margaret’s right to the property.[9] I had simultaneously been trying to read the whole of the Aberdeen Journal for the period, and there, in a notice she placed in 1789, I found her ‘voice’ for the first and only time, ensuring that none of David’s debts were charged to her and asserting her role as baker in Aberdeen.[10] All other mentions of her in the press had been oblique: a partner announcing the end of a partnership, her son asking for a lease for his mother, lawyers asserting her claim to the property. There are other small trails to follow up still, but from piecing together an array of disparate records, we can create a picture of her business, which was clearly long-standing and central to the commercial area of Aberdeen. It was also tolerated by the guild and held its own until near her death. Stories of such women are the bread and butter of our research, they whet our curiosity and through them we see the lives of towns come alive. This tale is not finished, and I intend now to develop it further and use this example with others with less detail to explore how businesses such as this inflect the character of eighteenth-century towns.

This tale of discovery probably replicates many other searches and journeys that other historians make. Our curiosity leads us on, we get ‘addicted’ to finding some answers, not all of which are terribly important. Perseverance and asking the same question, or similar ones, over and over, of the records, or of tangential material and of librarians and archivists is our stock in trade. In an age that prioritises publication—and publication of a particularly designated sort—we must not lose the curiosity and love of the past that drives us; we need to hang on to the wonder and joy of discovery—even with a little dance or two. And we need to keep using our skills, training and insight to solve these little mysteries; they can help solve the big ones.


[1] Deborah Simonton, A History of European Women’s Work, 1700 to the present (London: Routledge, 1998).

[2] Aberdeen City Archives (ACA), Enactment Books, 5. Register of Indentures, 1622-1878, see also Simonton, ‘Margaret Morice’, in The Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women, eds, Elizabeth L. Ewan, Sue Innes, Sian Reynolds and Rose Pipes (Edinburgh University Press, 2006), 272; Simonton, ’Negotiating the Economy of the Eighteenth-Century Scottish Town’ in Katie Barclay and Deborah Simonton, eds, Women in Eighteenth-century Scotland (Ashgate, 2013), 225.

[3] Ebenezer Bain, Merchant and Craft Guilds, A History of the Aberdeen Incorporated Trades (Aberdeen: 1887), 212.

[4] Great Britain, Public Record Office, Board of Inland Revenue. Apprenticeship Regis­ters, 1710-1808, IR1. For John, volumes for 1743-68; for Margaret, 1788.

[5] Simonton, ‘Education and Training’, 341, 352; see also Joan Lane, Apprenticeship in England, 1600-1914 (London, 1996), 117.

[6] Gender in the European Town, www.sdu.dk/geneton

[7] See the Strathmartine Trust website on support for Scottish research, http://www.strathmartinetrust.org/

[8] ACA, New Street Trustees, CA/10/1/30 South Entry Plan – Castle Street & Narrow Wynd, 1799

[9] Ibid, CA/13/NStT/5-16 Act ordaining David Morrice jnr to dispone his real & personal estate, 1789.

[10] Aberdeen Journal, 20 July 1789.

The Invisible Crofter: Work, Crofting and Highland Masculinity

Dr Elizabeth Ritchie (University of the Highlands and Islands)

I have a favourite set of placemats. They feature old photos of men and women engaged in crofting activities: cutting peat, winnowing corn, manuring fields. Although crofting was a marginal form of part-time agriculture forced on the people, by the mid-nineteenth century the work, and the land, and the embattled culture which came from it were central to the identity of Highlanders. Recognising this, the lenses of academia and government have sharpened their focus on men’s crofting, but to the blurring and near invisibility of their female counterparts, of non-crofting men, and of the other facets of crofting men’s identity.[1]
All images © E. Ritchie

The cultural and political importance of crofting and its association with men suggested to me that it would be a central plank of nineteenth-century Highland masculinity. As I perambulated around dozens of Highland burial grounds, I assumed if I looked for crofters on headstones, I would find an awful lot. I found three. In graveyards, even male crofters are invisible. Instead I encountered hundreds of Highland men who had instead expressed their identity through their families, through a sense of place, through their religion, and through non-crofting work.[2]

The exercise was a salient reminder of the variety of Scotland’s north. On the extensive, low-lying arable of Badenoch and Strathspey commercial agriculture was developed. In those graveyards are many farmers. Upland places, like Laggan and Dunbeath, were transformed into sheep farms then shooting estates. There are buried many shepherds and gamekeepers. On the fertile island of Tiree are farmers, master mariners, ship’s captains and boatmen. The men of small towns practiced a wide range of trades and professions. In the graveyard of Portree, the capital of Skye, repose two ship’s stewards, two merchants, three bankers (one for the National Bank of India), and a fischurer, solicitor, shoemaker, medical practitioner, joiner, weaver, salmon fisher, tailor, butcher, procurator fiscal, and the owner of the Caledonian Hotel.

 Dunbeath

Men of the professional and business classes recorded their expertise and esteem in stone. John Shaw Brown erected a substantial family memorial in Bracadale, Skye. He ensured the inscription mentioned his career as municipal engineer in Burma. It was important to Alexander Mackenzie that his wife’s headstone noted he was an Inverness merchant. Indeed, some stones read like advertisements for the family business. For the middling class of Highland men, professional success and a lifetime of honourable work was core to masculine identity. Donald MacLeay (1783-1868) was ‘45 years forester’; Neil MacLean (1783-1858) was minister of Coll and Tiree for forty nine years; Donald MacLean (1852–1907) was doctor in Garrabost and Stornoway; Donald Fraser (1797-1836) was Agent of the British Fisheries Society in Ullapool; James Kinghorn (1809-61), Ardgay, was an innkeeper; and Murdo MacKenzie (d. 1901) was Invergordon’s bank agent. The Highlands had a middling class, and central to the masculinity of its members was professional commitment and recognition.

But what of the less educated and less privileged? Expense would make it reasonable to find no gravestones for labourers or servants. However there are a few. The stone of James Wilson (1847-1868), a railway surfaceman at Dalwhinnie, was paid for by his fellow workmen. That of Dalwhinnie’s boatman, Donald Kennedy (1814-1881), was erected ‘by a few gentlemen friends’. Occasionally a servant lies beneath an elaborate headstone. These display the master’s munificence as much an honouring the servant. William Anderson (d. 1850) was a ‘faithful servant for twenty five years of James Horne of Langwell and Donald Horne of Langwell Berriedale.’[3] The inscription suggests that, like Stevens the butler in Kazuo Ishigiuro’s The Remains of the Day, Anderson’s entire sense of identity had become bound up in his work.[4] This was particularly the case when the man was foreign, possibly originally a slave. Despite his Scottish name he was ‘a native of the West Indies’. The Highlands had strong connections with the Caribbean slave economy. Anderson’s dates, name and connection with Langwell make it probable he was born into slavery.[5] The employer of another servant, ‘Kopuri Tom’ (d. 1877), knew neither his birth-date nor his real name.[6] He was a ‘Native of the island of Rotumah in the South Pacific Ocean’. Having died at Relugas House, Edinkillie, he was memorialised as ‘the faithful & attached servant of GF Wood Esq’. These men were set apart from other servants by race and nationality.[7] However they thought of themselves, their employers identified them through their exoticism and their excellence as servants.

William Anderson’s headstone overlooks the Berriedale Braes in Caithness.

Most men of lower social classes have no grave marker. In Lewis most nineteenth-century crofters lie in rows, between the tiny head and footstones. Yet poverty does not adequately explain the lack of men describing themselves as crofters on their headstones. After all skilled and semi-skilled men, of a similar social status, appear frequently.


Burial ground at Barvas, Isle of Lewis

Alexander Chisholm (1814-1873) was blacksmith at Glentruim; James Hossack (1808-1896) was gardener at Cluny Castle; William Ross Fraser (1861-1895) was telegraph lineman at Inverness Post Office; Alexander Macqueen (n.d.) was shoemaker at Camustianavaig; William Ross (1794-1876) was carpenter at Alness Moor; John Clark (1820-88) was saddler at Bonar Bridge; Thomas Calder (1797-1870) was lockkeeper at Gairlochy. These ordinary men’s skill, proficiency and place in society were recorded on their headstones.

It is possible some of these men were also crofters. Crofting was specifically designed to require a man to also take on waged work. However if these men were crofter-shoemakers, crofter-blacksmiths and crofter-lockkeepers, crofting was not the work through which they identified themselves for posterity.

I suspect other crofters are invisible due to their piety. Highland Evangelicalism provided formal positions, paid and unpaid, through which ordinary men could exercise religious leadership. These are noted on their stones. Donald MacKay (n.d.); John MacKay (1761-1839); John MacKenzie (d. 1897); and Alasdair (Beag) MacKay (1801-83), were catechists in Kilmuir Easter, Loth, Gairloch and Skerray respectively. Malcolm MacLeod (1837-1897) was missionary in Snizort, Skye. The income from these jobs probably supplemented their croft. Church voluntary roles provided no income but conferred esteem and authority. Alexander MacKay (1808-1865); Alexander Kemp (1806-88); and Donald MacDonald (1829-1899) from Invercharron, Gairloch and Portnaguran were elders. It is likely these men also crofted, but it was their identity as men of faith that was commemorated.

The three men I found who were primarily identified as crofters were Simon Campbell (1820-88), Torgormack, Beauly; George MacKay (1816-73), Bogrow, Edderton; and John Cameron (1815-1880), Upper Achintore, Kilmallie.

The rarity of men being identified on gravestones as crofters gave me pause. My survey demonstrates that what historians have said about nineteenth-century Englishmen and Americans applies to Highlanders: that work was crucial for their sense of masculinity and their public persona. But why, in a region where crofting was culturally, politically and economically important, do men not display this aspect of their self-identity on their gravestones? Several possibilities present themselves.

  1. Perhaps most crofters could not afford a gravestone.
  2. Perhaps in the rural Highlands, crofting was so ubiquitous that recording this on a gravestone was superfluous.
  3. Perhaps crofting was held in lower esteem than a trade. If a man practiced both, his skills as a blacksmith or saddler would be commemorated.
  4. Perhaps for a pious man, honouring his religious faith and service was more important than his few acres and his milk cow.

So, amidst a historiography preoccupied with land and crofting, it is good for a while to leave aside the documents and instead consider what men and their families said about themselves in stone. Their own words, however selective and stylized, remind us that many Highland men were not crofters. They were merchants, innkeepers, railway surfacemen, servants and bank agents. It is impossible to imagine that crofting was not a vital part of the identity of the working men whose photographs are printed on my placemats. But their apparent invisibility in graveyards reminds us that crofting men had a much broader sense of identity than historians have appreciated.


[1] Female crofters, for example, rarely appear as such in government records or in most history books. Despite women frequently running crofts single-handedly, ‘crofter’ is equated with ‘man’. The gendered view of crofters is dissected in Isobel MacPhail, ‘Land, crofting and the Assynt Crofters Trust: A post-colonial geography?’ unpublished PhD, University of Wales (2002), 214-221; Lynn Abrams has also challenged this through her study of Shetland women. Lynn Abrams, Myth and Materiality in a Woman’s World, Shetland 1800-2000, (Manchester University Press, 2005)

[2] The importance of place and of emotional relationships to masculine identity is examined in ‘Place, identity and Dead Men’ 15 February 2017 and ‘A dutiful relative, attached friend and obliging neighbour’ 21 March 2017 respectively. https://historylinksdornoch.wordpress.com/

[3] The military and sheep rearing activities of Donald Horne were described in glowing terms in George Tancred, Annals of a Border Club (Jedburgh, T.S. Small, 1899), 261-263. His evicting activities were recorded by Alexander Gunn in ‘Tales of Braemore’, Northern Ensign in 1879. These are reproduced on the Badbea Families website http://www.badbeafamilies.com/gallery-10.htm (accessed 20 December 2016)

[4] Kazuo Ishiguro, The Remains of the Day (London, 1989).

[5] David Alston, ‘“Very rapid and splendid fortunes”? Highland Scots in Berbice (Guyana) in the early nineteenth century’, Transactions of the Gaelic Society of Inverness, vol. LXIII (2002-2004), pp. 208-36; S. Karly Kehoe, ‘From the Caribbean to the Scottish Highlands: Charitable Enterprise in the Age of Improvement, c.1750 to c.1820’ Rural History (2016) 27.1, 37–59. The family who leased Langwell, before it was sold to James Horne, were Andersons with multi-generation links to the West Indies. It seems probable he was a mixed-race son. The Hornes bought the estate in 1814. They had also benefited from slavery. In 1836 Donald Horne and his sister Isabella McLeay were awarded £1981 0s 11d compensation as co-trustees for her late husband Kenneth MacLeay when slaves on his plantation in British Guiana were freed. Legacies of British Slave-ownership database https://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/claim/view/8644 (accessed 20 December 2016)

[6] Kopuri is an Indian surname. Rotuma is a Fijian dependency.

[7]. Although not slaves, without local networks their options for changing their occupation or employer were more limited. However, A.S. Cowper notes that Anderson latterly ran the Berriedale Inn. I can find no source for this claim which appears in ‘Burial grounds of Caithness and Sutherland’ Caithness Field Club Bulletin, 3.5 (1983). http://www.caithness.org/caithnessfieldclub/bulletins/1983/april1983/burialgrounds.htm (accessed 20 December 2016). It is not supported by the 1841 census where the proprietors are MacLeods. As early as 1790, Bishop Geddes notes ‘dining at Henderson’s’ in Berriedale. William Anderson, ‘Bishop John Geddes: Journal Ambula Coram Deo, Part Second’, The Innes Review, 6.2, (1955), 140. It is possible Geddes misheard the name but he does not comment on Henderson’s race. This, the early date, and the name suggest this proprietor was not William Anderson. However it is perfectly possible he ran the business sometime between the 1790s and 1841.

#InternationalWomensDay

Today the 8th of March is International Women’s Day – we couldn’t let the day pass without drawing attention to some of the great initiatives promoting their work in relation to gender equality and women’s history!

Engender Scotland have launched their new new site #makingworkvisible to chart women’s work in Scotland – paid and unpaid:

Glasgow Women’s Library are ‘safeguarding the history of your grandmothers, hearing the memories of your mothers and providing the inspiration for your daughters’ as always

The Dangerous Women project at the University of Edinburgh has been highlighting its work:

 

Finally a reminder that if you’ve not voted please take the time to choose one of fourteen ‘Scotland’s Heroines’ for inclusion in the ‘Hall of Heroes’ in the Wallace Monument:

I’m sure there’s plenty of great projects and events that I’ve missed – get in touch and let us know what you’ve been up to for International Women’s Day 2017