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|THE GREGG FAMILY HISTORY PROJECT - CHAPTER 5|
I refer to my Great-Great-Great Grandfather William Gregg[P439], as 'The Elusive William'. We know that he was born around 1766, and almost certainly in Ayrshire. Although we have found a parish record for Ayr confirming the birth of a William Gregg for that year, we have no recorded proof that this is the same William who married Agnes Currie, my Great-Great-Great Grandmother, in 1788. It is thought however, that William's parents are James Greg and Janet [Henderson] Greg[F142] who lived in the town of Ayr. They had nine children, all of whom are recorded in the Ayr parish registers. A son William was born to them in 1766 and the parish record states: - William Greg lawful son to James Greg, Master of Manners, and Janet Henderson his spouse, born 20 April 1766 and baptised 26 April'.
So, the most likely parents to William are therefore, James Greg[P437] and Janet Henderson[P438]. We must not be put off here by the fact that the surname spellings differ. The parish records relating to William's marriage describe his surname as Greig, and in later years it was also spelled as Gregg. This is a typical example of misnomers of the period.
William Gregg and Agnes Currie named their first child James, but we have not found the birth records of a Janet to this couple. However, the person we believe to be our William's brother - James Gregg[P381] who married Lewis Brown[P385], named their third and fourth children James and Janet.
Then in 1996 , a questionable event in our research came when my cousin Matthew Greig discovered another entry in the Ayr parish registers for the month of December in 1776.
It reads: -'William Greg son of James Greg, aged 10 years and 3 months, died of fever, buried 1 December 1776'.
Unfortunately the death record, as is often the case, omits to name of the boy's mother. The big question remains - did this death entry relate to the William born to James Greg and Janet Henderson in 1766. By December 1776, the month of the death, James and Janet's son William would have been aged 10 years and 8 months. No record of a second William born to them has been found.
Documents relating to James Greg[P437] describe him as having been a Dance Tutor, and Master of Manners, and these same occupations are also attributed to our William in later years.
Fortunately, details are available concerning William's family, occupation, and whereabouts from the time he married to the time he died. One by one, his descendants have been traced through to the present day, but his is the furthest point back to which I can presently trace our family by conventional and proven means.
William was born during the reign of George III [1738-1820] - and in his early years William would have known about the British wars in North America with the French and Spanish, and the loss of American Colonies with the declaration of American independence on 4 July 1776. The surrender by British forces was finally in 1782. Around the time that the new town of Edinburgh was under construction. It would be in William's early years too that Captain Cook was to discover Botany Bay, and shortly afterwards that 'criminals' and prisoners were being transported there by the thousands.
Other notable events were the completion of the worlds first iron bridge over the River Severn, the invention of the 'modern steam engine' by James Watt and the Spinning Jenny by J Hargreaves'
It was during these years that William would most likely have been apprenticed to his future profession as a stonemason, later to become a member of the Masons Lodge in Tarbolton where he was notably a dance teacher and musician.
A young man of local acquaintance with William, was Robert Burns, who was later to become an internationally recognised poet. Burns published his first book - "Poems, chiefly in the Scottish dialect" in 1786.
Just two years later, on 26 September 1788, Williams married Agnes Currie[P440] at the village of Ochiltree, a few miles east from Ayr.
Their first recorded child Wiliam and Agnes was named JAMES[P463], born at 'Bonnyton' Ochiltree in 1789. It was common practice to name first children after their Grandparents, and this could be another indicator that James' Grandfather was James Greg from Ayr.
The Parish record: 'James Greig, lawful son to William Greig and Agnes Currie in Bonnyton, Ochiltree was baptised on 19th July 1789'
Later details obtained from the 1855 death certificate of the child's mother, Agnes Currie, state that this son 'died abroad' but gives no further details of where and when.
By 1791, when their second child Elizabeth Gregg[P464] was born, William was described on the Mauchline parish baptismal entry as being a mason. Although we know William was a member of the Masonic Lodge in Tarbolton, we also presume his occupation to have been that of a stonemason.
Agnes[P461] their youngest, arrived in July 1803. These three children were all born in Tarbolton Ayrshire, and over the following 99 years, all but three children within the generations of the family would be born in that town.
Life was generally a great deal harder in those days - workdays were long and conditions were poor. Accommodation was cramped with large and impoverished families to feed and cloth. They faced despair, deficiencies, and death from any number of diseases. Day to day life was domineered by the parish priests and greatly revolved around the local church. In 1795 the first Poor Laws were devised to accommodate the homeless and deprived. In 1796 E. Jenner discovered a Smallpox vaccine, a miracle of its time, but only two years later in 1798, the Typhus epidemic was killing thousands more.
During the years that William and Agnes were raising their family, such military events as the Mutiny aboard HMS Bounty took place in 1789. France declared war on Britain and the Netherlands on 1 Feb 1793, their attempt to land forces at Fishguard in Wales being repulsed on 21 Feb 1797. These wars would continue for several years and claim many lives in Europe. It was a time of national mourning when on 21 Oct 1805 Nelson died at Trafalgar, albeit victorious.
The final records we have for William and Agnes are Census returns for the Failford Almshouses in the parish of Tarbolton. The move may have been too much for old William for he died not long after they moved there.
CENSUS 1841. Piece: SCT1841/619 Place: Tarbolton-Ayrshire Enumeration District: 4.
Civil Parish: Tarbolton Ecclesiastical Parish, Village or Island: - Folio: 0 Page: 9. Address: Coopers Hospital - Failford
NOTE: Coopers Hospital was actually a row of Alms Houses - retired residents were described then as 'inmates'
CENSUS 1851. Piece: SCT1851/619 Place: Ayr -Ayrshire Enumeration District: 61855 was the year in which the first official death certificates were introduced into Scotland. They included a great deal of information relating to the families of the deceased, and it is the source from which further details of Agnes' husband and children were obtained. Again William was described as a 'Dancing Master'. With regard to the children of the deceased, the 'Issue of the order of birth' was supplied on the certificate.
Civil Parish: Tarbolton Ecclesiastical Parish, Village or Island: Tarbolton Folio: 0 Page: 1 Schedule: 0
Address: Failford Hospital - Page torn - Some information missing
We are informed from this that in 1855 : 1) James - deceased abroad. 2) Elizabeth - living. 3) William - deceased infant. 4) John - deceased. 5) William - living. 6)Agnes living. The fourth sibling listed - John - was my Great, Great, Grandfather, who died in 1840 whilst both his parents were still alive. We also learned from the certificate that Agnes was born in St Quivox, close to Ayr, and that her parents were William Currie[P454] a wright - possibly stonewright, and Elizabeth Reid[P455]. They were of course my Great-Great-Great-Great Currie Grandparents. Even details of Agnes' burial place at Tarbolton Churchyard were included. Had death certificates continued to give such information, it would have been far easier to trace ones relatives, but unfortunately the format changed in 1856, when less information was required from that point on.
Children to William and Agnes1] James Gregg[P463] - presently all we know is that James 'Died abroad' and we assume from local records that he married Mary McKenzie[P188] in June 1811. We have no records for births of children to this couple and may well tie in with the fact that James 'died abroad'. There might of course have been children wherever 'abroad' may have been.
This marriage assumed to be the correct James Gregg:
a) OPR OCHILTREE: 'James Gregg in this parish and Mary McKenzie in parish of Stair after regular proclamation were married 14th June 1811'.
b) IGI-M116142 Marriage banns at Stair 9 Jun 1811 Mary McKenzie to James Gregg
c) IGI-M116902 Marriage notice at Ochiltree 14 Jun 1811 James Gregg to Mary McKenzie 2)
2] William Gregg [P474] Died in infancy.
3] Elizabeth Gregg[P464] - Married John Pettigrew[P465], a tailor, on 15 July 1814.[F149]. There were eight known children: William Pettigrew[P466], Agnes Pettigrew[P467], Mary Pettigrew[P468], John Pettigrew[P469], James Pettigrew[P470], Alexander(1) Pettigrew[P471], Robert Pettigrew[P472] and Alexander(2) Pettigrew[P473] 3) William(1) Gregg[P474] - died as infant 4)
a)Married Friday 15 July 1814, Tarbolton Ayrs IGI M116194
4] John Gregg[P475] - Married Jean Gibson on 27 Nov 1818. [F146]. There were six known children: James Gregg[P485], Janet Gregg[P486], Agnes Gregg[P487], William Gregg[P489], Margaret Gregg[P490] and Jean Denholm Gregg[P492].
a) IGI A471905-SCR-FR441
5] William(2) Gregg[P475] - Died unmarried in 1879 and was buried at Tarbolton Churchyard.
6] Agnes Gregg[P461], married Robert Welch[P462] a silk weaver, on 22 Sep 1862. [F148]. There were two known children - William Welch[P1057] and Robert Welch[P1058].
a) SOURCE: SCR FR312 & 465 IGI C116194
John, the fourth child, inherited an interesting item that once belonged to his father. It was to become a family heirloom, and today it is deemed by the National Trust of Scotland to be of historical importance. Its 200-year trail is traced in the following story:
He noted that the only person currently living in Tarbolton, and connected with the Gregg family, was Alan Carswell - Grandson to Alan Carswell[P510] who married Mary Gregg - daughter to John Gregg[P507]. He also told of other Gregg's he recalled from his youth, and related stories passed down to him from locals in the town. What he told was very interesting and most stands up to close scrutiny. One or two of his points regarding the relationship of one person to another were slightly inaccurate, but nonetheless greatly appreciated.
However, the main point of my enquiry regarding his ownership of the fiddle proved to be a misrepresentation of the facts by the newspaper reporter. John Weir explained that the fiddle, known locally as 'The Gregg Fiddle', had not been passed down through his family, but had been given to him by a local resident named James Niven.
This James Niven was a friend of Alan Carswell[P510], widower to Mary Gregg[P509]. Investigation then led us to find that Mary Gregg[P509] my first cousin once-removed, was Great, Great Granddaughter to William and Agnes. Being the only child of her family, Mary inherited the fiddle from her father, John Gregg[P507] who was brother to my Grandfather Matthew Paton Gregg[P512]. The trail could now be traced back to William through the line of Mary's father. It had been handed down through surviving eldest sons in the order of William[P439], John[P457], William[P489], John[P507] and eventually to Mary[P509].
My Grandfather, (Uncle to Mary), moved away from Tarbolton with his family in 1898, and following the death of Mary in 1937, some 39 years later, her husband Alan Carswell may well have lost contact with any surviving members of the Gregg family. Possibly this was the reason he gave away the heirloom, or perhaps he and his family did not consider the old instrument to be of any significance at that time.
More photos of the Gregg Fiddle will soon be available to view.
As a musician and family historian, I would have preferred the instrument had remained in our family. But - just too late! It is strange how family stories sometimes turn out to be only rumours, but in this case the story was true and correct. In consolation we must be satisfied to know that the tale is finally put to rest, and the Gregg Fiddle is now in the safe hands of the National Trust for Scotland, and kept at Culzean Castle. I am assured that it should now be available for viewing at the Bachelors Club in Tarbolton, and other Public places. The instrument has accompanied the Ayrshire Fiddle Orchestra worldwide.
Who was Robert Burns, I was recently asked.
To anyone with Scottish connections the question would seem absurd to say the least. Being held in the highest esteem by most Scots, his literary works stand alongside those of Shakespeare, Chaucer and other famous writers and poets. Robert Burns was born and raised in Ayrshire Scotland. He lived only 37 years from 1759 - 1796, yet he wrote many Poems, Ballads and Songs. He is said by many to have been one of the greatest poets of all time. To this day his 'AULD LANG SYNE' is sung every New Years Eve by millions of people throughout the world - yet surprisingly many people are unaware of the origin of the prose. He is a symbol for Scottish patriotism and an immense attraction for Scottish tourism.
Note: I am currently investigating a genetic link between early Burns' forebears named Greig, and our family.
Recently I also discovered a new link that may be related to our Gregg family history. Circumstantial evidence with regard to location and names, and dates could be significant in that it provides an alternative source of parents for William.
One John Gregg[P937] b. C.1735, married
Agnes Stewart[P938] on 11 Jul 1755 at Kirkmichael Ayrshire.[F283]
Their first recorded son was John Greig [P939] born 22 Feb 1759 at Maybole near Ayr. A daughter Agness Greg[P941] was also born there on 13 Jan 1761.
The details relating to their next two children are interesting in that they are the only Gregg twins to be recorded in my family research to date.
The named children were WILLIAM GREG[P1] and Ann Greg[P940], both born on 26 Feb 1765 at Corrieshill Maybole, and baptised on 1 March 1765. Once again we see three different spellings of the surname within one family, but this William could well be the same person as our William[P439].
It has been suggested that if this were the same William detailed in this chapter, then further examples of twins should be found in the family. However, this would not be the case because the production of twins is genetically determined by the female lines, and any such twins would have been produced by his sisters or their descendants under a different surname.