September 2023 is the 10th birthday of the Society for One-Place Studies so, a little late in the day, I’m taking up the #OnePlaceStudies10 blog prompt. You’ll eventually find short pieces on ten people from my one-place study in North Walls and Brims, chosen because of some event in their lives in September.

11 September – Cathrine Wilson

Cathrine Wilson was baptised on 11 Sept 1854 in Walls, daughter of Robert Wilson and Jean McIntyre, Crockness. The baptism record shows that she was born on 24 March. When she less than a month old her father Robert was “drowned by the upsetting of a boat with peats betwixt Graemsay & Stromness” on 18 April 1854.

Cathrine had left home by the 1881 Census and in 1887 she married George Cairns in Edinburgh; she was a domestic servant at the time. She died in Edinburgh in 1922. #OnePlaceStudies10

12 September – Jean Sabeston

Jean Sabeston may have married James Whelan on 12 September 1868 in Greenock, Renfrewshire. She was born on 8 May 1835 to James Sabeston and his wife Jean Wilson, North Walls, From the censuses the family lived in the Lyness/Millbay area.

Why “may have married”? The 1868 marriage record for Jean and Patrick named her father, correctly, as James a labourer, but her mother was said to be Jean Wason, not Wilson. This Jean’s age was recorded as 30 rather than 33. Her husband Patrick was also 30 so perhaps her age was reduced a little, not unusual in the past where wives were younger than their husbands. But Wason rather than Wilson? I’m trying to imagine how an Orkney accent might have sounded to a Greenock Roman Catholic priest – they were married at St Lawrence Chapel, Greenock. Did he write the name wrongly in the marriage register? Given Jean’s less common surname, Sabeston, I strongly suspect this is the right woman and I can’t find anyone else in the records who would disprove this.

Sadly Jean died on 20 April 1870 in Greenock, leaving an eight-month-old son. Had she lived longer, the 1871 Census might have provided proof of birthplace. Why was she in Greenock? Her occupation when she married was domestic servant which means she was there for work. Some merchant seamen from Walls seem to have been based in Greenock so there may well have been good contacts.

Map of part of Walls and Brims showing places mentioned in this post. Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland:

13 September – Barbara Swanson

Barbara Swanson was baptised on 13 September 1830 in Walls, daughter of William Swanson and Elizabeth Sandison, from the Ore/Orequoy/Rinnigill areas in the censuses. She had an older sister of the same name who must have died very young; re-use of a first name in this way was not uncommon.

In 1855 when she was a domestic servant in Kirkwall, Barbara married William Melvin, a ship’s carpenter from Cava, Orkney. They had two children, William and Elizabeth born in Partick and Dumbarton, then William died in 1861. Barbara likely returned home soon afterwards – were there even any other options? She was recorded in the 1871 Census with her brother George in Rinnigill (or North Crockness) and remained there until her death in 1900, aged 71.

Her daughter Elizabeth died in 1875 but William, her son, may have gone on to be the manager of an Iron Foundry in Glasgow – I’m still checking this out. #OnePlaceStudies10

14 September – William Sangster

William Sinclair Sangster married Isabella Sutherland on 14 Sept 1876 in Walls. He was a 1st Mate at the time (Master Mariner ‘s certificate obtained in 1879). Isabella was from Haybrake, North Walls and died in 1885 leaving one son. In 1887 William remarried to Williamina Manson from Burnmouth, Rackwick; they had three children and their family home was in Stromness. He died in Glasgow in 1896 aged around 48.

William was probably born in Greenock in 1848, to George Sangster and his wife Margaret Simpson. That is the birthplace recorded for him in the 1851 and 1861 Censuses when he was with his grand-uncle, Benjamin Bruce at Little Ayre, North Walls though other sources say Stromness or Longhope. Both his parents were said to be dead by the time he married. He had a strong sea-going ancestry. I’m still working on the detail but his father George (and possibly his grandfather) was a master mariner and the Bruces of North Walls, his paternal grandmother’s line, produced several master mariners over at least two generations.

17 September – Hellen Nicholson

Hellen Nicholson was born on 17 September 1861 in Brims, Orkney the youngest child of Ralph Nicholson, fisherman, and Helen Ritch. She married Alexander Groat, baker & grocer, in 1885 as his second wife. They had nine sons. She died at Northrow, South Walls in 1911 from TB. Her descendants still run the local shop. #OnePlaceStudies10

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