Category Archives: Duff

James Ritchie 1822-1913

Since I have published excerpts from his diary, and a letter he wrote to his cousin Margaret Duff, I thought I’d put together a brief biography of my 1st cousin (4x removed) James Ritchie.


James Ritchie, courtesy of Catherine Duff.

James was born in the town of Bankfoot in Perthshire, Scotland on 27 Jun 1822, and baptized in the parish of Auchtergaven the same day . He was the middle child of seven children born to William Ritchie (1782-1831) and Marion “May” Duff (1792-1869), and their only son. His mother May Duff was the sister of my 3x-great-grandfather Reverend William Duff.  His father William Ritchie was an “officer of excise” or an “inland reserve officer”, that is to say, he was a tax man.

James Ritchie Baptism, 1822

James Ritchie Baptism, 1822

Death visited the Ritchie family often, unfortunately.  James’s sister Marjory died in 1821 as an infant, and his sister Jane died in 1825, also in infancy.  In 1828 his sister Charlotte died at the age of 10 years, and another sister (also named Jane) died in 1829 at three years of age.  Finally, in 1831, when James was only 9 years old, his father William Ritchie died.  That left his mother May, James, and his sister Charlotte Nicoll Ritchie as the only surviving members of the family.

I cannot find James in the 1841 Census for Scotland, and I’m guessing he might have been away at University as he would have been 19 years old.  James became a Civil Engineer, and he is listed as such in the 1851 census where he is living alone at 131 Point Street in Stornoway, Ross and Cromarty, Scotland.   Stornoway is on Lewis Island, to the north of Scotland, and was a part of Ross at the time.

1851 Census, Stornoway, Ross and Cromarty, Scotland

1851 Census, Stornoway, Ross and Cromarty, Scotland

In the 1861 census he’s living with his mother and his sister Charlotte Nicoll at 3 Melville St. in Perth Burgh, Perthshire, Scotland.  He is again listed as a civil engineer.  In 1865 he wrote some diary entries describing his trip to Liverpool to take his nieces Isabella and Margaret Duff to begin their journey back home to Nova Scotia.  They are worth a read.

On 22 Mar 1870 James married Annie Cowan Thomson in Redgorton, Scotland.  He was 47 years old.   Annie had been married previously to Dr. William John Thomson in Calcutta, India when she was 22 years old.

Ritchie Thomson Marriage, 1870

Ritchie Thomson Marriage, 1870

The couple ended up having four children:  The first son Charles Ritchie died in infancy.  His daughter, Dr. Beatrice Ritchie (1872-1962), studied at the Jex Blake School of Medicine for Women in Edinburgh and got her MD with distinction from the Université Libre de Bruxelles (Brussels) in 1893.  In 1895 she married her former teacher Dr. William Russell (Professor of Medicine at Edinburgh University), and had six children, four of whom were doctors [I will give brief biographies of them below].  During and after the First World War Beatrice worked for the Scottish Women’s Hospitals.

Beatrice Ritchie & her daughters c1902

Beatrice Ritchie & her daughters c1902

James and Annie next had a son, William Ritchie, who also became a doctor.  William seems to have moved to Ontario, Canada and married a woman named Annie Eliza Dane.  Last came another daughter, Annie May Ritchie, who married John A. Robson, a minister’s son and a solicitor [lawyer] in Edinburgh.

In the 1881 and 1891 Census, James Ritchie is listed as living at 6 Athole Place, Perth East Church, Perthshire, Scotland, and still listed as a civil engineer.  In 1901 he has moved to St Ninians, Stirlingshire, Scotland.  It’s just himself and his wife living there with a domestic servant.

James died in Roberton, Lanarkshire, Scotland on 10 Aug 1913 at the ripe old age of 91 years.  I have his probate documents in which he was described as “James Ritchie, Civil Engineer Lands Valuator, and Surveyor who resided sometime at 6 or 7 Athole Place Perth, thereafter at Birkhill Stirling, and thereafter at 10 St. James Terrace, Hillhead, Glasgow West who died at Roberton in the county of Lanark upon the 19th day of August, 1913”.

James Ritchie probate index, 1913

James Ritchie probate index, 1913

James was said to have been involved in the creation of the railways running through the Scottish Highlands.  Interestingly, his estate showed that he owned shares of the Illinois Central Railroad Company and the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway in the United States.  His entire estate was valued at about £ 9,000.  James was buried in Dean Cemetery in Edinburgh, Scotland with his wife, his son-in-law Dr. William Russell, his daughter Dr. Beatrice Ritchie, and his grand-daughter Dr. Beatrice Annie Sybil Russell.

Dean 2c Cemetery Edinburgh, Lothian, Scotland

Dean 2c Cemetery
Edinburgh, Lothian, Scotland

There is a large obelisk in the Kirkstyle Cemetery which is located between Berryhill Farm (the Duff Family farm) and the town of Bankfoot (where the Ritchie Family lived).  The inscription reads:

“Erected by James Ritchie in memory of his father William Ritchie who died 19th May 1831 aged 49 years, and mother May Duff who died 4th January 1869 aged 76 years, and sisters May, Jane, Charlotte, Jane, and Charlotte Nicoll Ritchie.”

Ritchie Family Grave

Ritchie Family Grave

I think it shows the depth of his devotion to, and love for, his family.

Children of Beatrice Ritchie and William Russell

As mentioned above, James’s daughter Beatrice Ritchie and her husband Dr. William Russell had six children, one of which (Ivan) died from tuberculosis in infancy.  Four of their children became respected physicians in their own rights.  Each merits a full biography, but I will give brief details here:

Beatrice Annie Sybil “Sybil” Russell (1986-1978) became the house physician in Northampton, then house surgeon at Bolton in Lancashire.  She got her MD in 1939 from Edinburgh University.  She spent about 25 years working as a consulting physician training nurses and midwives in the Gold Coast Hospitals in Africa before retiring in 1950.  During that time she published papers on malaria and anaemia in Africa.

Helen May Russell (1897-1987) graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 1920 and was a house surgeon at Bolton, Lancashire like her sister Sybil.  She then became a resident at the Sick Children’s Hospital in Edinburgh.  She was one of the first two women to ever pass the MRCPE [Member of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh] exam in 1924, and one of the first two women to become a Fellow of that society in 1929.  She got her MD that same year.  She had a long and distinguished career which ended with her appointment as pathologist at the Manchester Christie Hospital from 1944 until her retirement in 1962.  She published 28 medical papers in her career.

Margaret Scott Russell (1899-1961) met a Russian named Michael Chramtschenko, who had fled from the Nijnl-Novgorod region during the Russian Revolution of 1917-1918.  Michael’s father had been a General in the Russian Army and Governor of Nijnl-Novgorod, but he was killed during the revolution.  Michael fought during the Revolution, then fled through Poland and Scotland to reunite with Margaret Russell.  The two had met when Margaret was working in Russia with refugees.  The lovers planned to be married, and Michael went to Ontario, Canada.  Margaret followed.  They were married there in 1924, and stayed there until Margaret’s death in 1961.  The couple had no children, but Michael remarried and has living descendants from that marriage.

Margaret, Sybil, & Helen Russell c1909

Margaret, Sybil, & Helen Russell c1909

William Ritchie “Ritchie” Russell (1903-1980) was educated at Edinburgh University where he qualified in 1926.  His MD thesis earned a gold medal in 1932, and is still cited as a landmark work in the field of head trauma studies.  Ritchie married Jean Stuart Low in 1932 and had two children.  He worked in Oxford at the Military Hospital for Head Injuries during WWII.  He later became the first chair of Clinical Neurology at Oxford in 1966.  He established a retirement community called Ritchie Court which still exists.  His son, Michael Russell is a third-generation doctor in Dorset.


William “Ritchie” Russell

William Ritchie Russell

William Ritchie Russell

Photo courtesy of the Ritchie Center.

Charles Scott “Scott” Russell (1912-1971) studied at Edinburgh University and obtained his MB in 1935.  Hebecame the first professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Sheffield University in 1950, was a prolific author and researcher on the subject.  Scott became renowned as the man who, in 1968, proved a link between smoking and low infant weight.

Dr. Scott Russell

Dr. Scott Russell

It is not an overstatement to say that the Ritchie family was a medical dynasty in Scotland.


Portrait of William Duff Sr (1766 – 1836)

A cousin sent me this wonderful copy of a portrait that’s been in her family for many generations.  It’s said to be a portrait of William Duff Sr., who was my 4x great-grandfather.  I have written about William and his descendants previously: Meet the Duff Family of Perthshire, Scotland.

This painting shows William in what appears to be the uniform of a British Army footman c1790-1810, around the time of the Napoleonic Wars.

William Duff Sr.

William Duff Sr.

Another cousin from a branch of the family more closely-related to my own also has a copy of this portrait.  On the back it says, “William Duff of Berry Hill, Perthshire, Scottland”.  It is the same portrait as the first, but with more detail. In this one it looks like he might be standing on a ship.


Portrait of William Duff, courtesy of Sean and Ann Collins.

It feels almost like several copies must have been made by someone in the family who was artistically inclined and then given to various family members.

The copper “gorget”, seen at his collar is actually in the possession of my cousin Catherine Duff.  This is a photo she sent me of it:

Duff Gorget

Duff Gorget

It’s hard to make out the detail, but it’s a British Georgian crown over “GR” and laurel sprays.  Here’s a photo of a similar item showing more detail:


My cousin Catherine found this citation which lists a “Major William Duff” among the “26th British Regiment of Foot” from 14 Feb 1786 to March 1793.  Unfortunately, the “Book of the Duffs” shows this Major William Duff is not our ancestor.  Another cousin has verified that William of the 26th was not our Ancestor, but also found a mention of a William Duff who was a decommissioned officer of the Central Regiment of the Royal Perthshire Local Militia.  That is a possibility we will have to research.

The quest continues.

I’d love to find out more about this uniform and what it implies about William Duff’s service in the British military around 1800.  If anyone has more details, please feel free to contact me.

Poetry by William Menzies Duff (1849-1920)

Poetry by William Menzies Duff

William Menzies Duff c1885.

William Menzies Duff c1885.

William Menzies Duff was my 2x-great-grand-uncle, the son of Reverend William Duff and Jane Elizabeth Fairbanks.  He was born in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia in 1849 (his death record says 12 Apr 1849 and his tombstone says 27 Jan 1849).  William married Elizabeth Harriet “Bessie” Hunter in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia on 6 Mar 1877, and they had six children: William Fairbanks Duff (1881-1942), Jean Hunter Duff (b 1882), Prescott Blagdon Duff (1884-1959), Robert Hunter Duff (1888-1917) who was killed in WWI, Kenneth Gordon Duff (1890-1967) and Annie Fairbanks Duff (b1892).

William Menzies Duff Family c1898.

Family of William Menzies Duff c1989 – Standing back: William, Kenneth, Jean. Seated: Elizabeth Hunter, Robert, Annie, William Menzies Duff. Seated front: Prescott Duff.

My cousin Catherine is descended from Prescott Duff, and her line of the family has preserved a vast archive of genealogical material, some of which I’ve shared here previously.  Recently she sent me a hand-written poem from WMD (as she calls him), and I thought I’d share it here because I found it interesting in any number of ways.  A transcription is below the image.  My cousin Catherine points out, “This poem is interesting in that Bessie Hunter, WMD’s wife, died Feb. 10, 1909 and the poem was written to a friend at Easter 1909.  It seems WMD had a friend who hoped to be more than a friend.  This person was obviously not wasting time!”

"Reply to an Earlier Card", 1909

“Reply to an Earlier Card”, 1909

Reply to an Earlier Card from
a Lady friend much admired.

Could I but live my life again
With knowledge I possess
I’d stake my claim in Love’s domain
And battle for success;

But lackaday [alas], my hair is gray
I’ve passed the half way stage
To meet my soul’s performance goal
Friend of my middle age.
For Passions Joy’s contain alloys
Such Pleasures have their end
He only wins th’enduring prize
Who boasts a faithful friend

With such a bond between us dear
We’re after all allied
And thus my vagrant muse returns
Greetings of Easter-tide.

Here is another of his poems entitled “Faith”:



From out the dust of their creator’s World
The Great Designer in His image formed
Mankind!  Well pleased with this His last and best
Creation, the almighty Father God
Into that senseless clay His spirit breathed
And Man began mysterious Life on Earth
Free Will He gave him, but alas man used
It to destroy himself, undoing thus
The Work of the Great Architect. And Death
Claims Empire, when ere Life had ruled Supreme.
But what, for man, is Life?  Or what is Death?
What mortal can the mystery unfold?
Even they who live and move on this vast globe
Or they, who, done with Life, sleep in the tomb
Ah no!  No living sage, nor mighty dead
Has e’re, or can for man, His riddle solve.
Yet we have Faith, Faith in a life beyond
And Strength to Welcome Death, that sets us Free


Poem by Annie Blagdon Fairbanks (1822-1899)

Annie Blagdon Fairbanks was the sister of my 3x-great-grandmother Jane Elizabeth Fairbanks.  She lived in Dartmouth, Halifax, Nova Scotia, and was never married and never had any children.  When my grandmother died in 1856 at the age of only 32, Annie moved in with my grandfather and helped him take care of his five surviving children.

Annie Blagdon Fairbanks

Annie Blagdon Fairbanks

My cousin Catherine has shared with me a signed copy of a poem written by Annie the 25th of November, 1878 on the occasion of the arrival in Halifax of Princess Louise Caroline Alberta and her husband the Marquis of Lorne.  Princess Louise was the daughter of Queen Victoria of Britain and her husband Prince Albert.  The Marquis had been appointed as Governor General of Canada.

Princess Louise (National Portrait Gallery)

Princess Louise (National Portrait Gallery)

The couple arrived in Halifax on 23 Nov 1878, so the poem was written two days later.  More information on the couple’s Canadian years can be found here.

"The Mayflower's Welcome"

“The Mayflower’s Welcome”



Welcome!  Welcome!  loving welcome to our rock-
  bound shore,
Twice two million hearts behind it, welcome holds
  in store;
We have longed to greet thy coming, with our sun-
  niest skies,
But our welcome gloeth warmly, tho’ ‘neath frost
  it lies.
     Daughter of a race of kings,
     Chieftain, round whose lineage clings,
     All that doth a name enhance
     Of glory mingled with romance.

With one pulse our whole Dominion beats through-
  out to-day,
In the universal gladness, little discords pass away;
For the Princess who is coming home to us across
  the sea,
Has been trusted to our keeping – and a loyal race
are we.
     The Denizens of wood and wild
     Have welcome for her Mother’s child – 
     Mayflowers drooped when Dufferin fled,
     For Lorne they raise a smiling head.

Near the Thistle and the Rose, so lovingly en-
Blushingly the Mayflowers ask, that they a place
  may find.
For their welcome is so earnest, and their love so
  deep and true,
None among the mighty nations, bear a warmer
  heart to you.
     North and South –we come to greet thee!
     East and West – are here to meet thee!
     Watching as those who watch for morn,
     For our sweet lady, and for Lorne.

May the home with us be happy.  We will guard it
Love will nerve the strong right arms, that in our
  country dwell
From Ocean unto Ocean, again we cry once more,
A glad right royal welcome to the Canadian Shore.
     For earthly good and Heaven’s care,
     Most fervently we offer prayer;
     Hear us, oh God! and truly bless
     The Lord of Lorne and our Princess.

Dartmouth, 25th Nov., 1878.   A. B. F.

Note from Catherine: At age 33, the Marquess of Lorne became the fourth Governor General of Canada 25 of November 1878. His wife was Princess Louise, fourth daughter of Queen Victoria.

Jane Elizabeth Fairbanks Letters – Index

This is an index of all the letters written to or from my 3x great-grandmother Jane Elizabeth Fairbanks.

25 Sept 1846 – Rev. William Duff to Jane (prior to marriage)

19 Oct 1846 – Reply from Jane to Rev. William Duff (prior to marriage)

30 Jul 1855 – Jane to Mary Fairbanks Twining

17 Aug 1855 – Jane to Mary Fairbanks Twining (Partial letter)

Summer 1855 – Jane to Mary Fairbanks Twining (Partial letter)

1 Oct 1855 – Jane to Mary Fairbanks Twining

18 Oct 1855 – Jane to Mary Fairbanks Twining

2 Nov 1855 – Jane to Mary Fairbanks Twining

13 Nov 1855 – Jane to Mary Fairbanks Twining (Partial letter)

16 Jan 1856 – Jane to Mary Fairbanks Twining

Jane Elizabeth Fairbanks c1855, courtesy of Catherine Duff

Jane Elizabeth Fairbanks c1855, courtesy of Catherine Duff

Jane Fairbanks & Child (From the Archives of Nancy Prescott Forrest)

Jane Fairbanks & Child (From the Archives of Nancy Prescott Forrest)

Letter From Jane Elizabeth Fairbanks – 2 Nov 1855

Another letter written from Braco, Lunenburg, Nova Scotia on 2 Nov 1855 by my 3x great-grandmother Jane Elizabeth Fairbanks Duff to her cousin Mary Martha Fairbanks Twining in Halifax.  This is probably the saddest letter out of all of them, as Jane and Mary discuss the recent death of their mutual first cousin Frances “Fanny” Allison.

There is also some ominous foreshadowing.  In the letter Jane writes: “It is indeed a solemn warning to us who are in health and strength to be also ready seeing we know neither the day nor the hour when death shall come.” She would die only months later.

[Transcription follows the letter itself.  Click on the images to enlarge or download.  Letter courtesy of Catherine Duff & Family.]

Pages 1, 4, & 5

Pages 1, 4, & 5

Pages 2, 3, and 6

Pages 2, 3, and 6

== Page 1

Braco Nov. 2nd [1855]

My Dear Mary,

If I had not been very much engaged for the last week, I should certainly have thanked you very much sooner for your kindness in writing [words crossed out]  at a time when you knew I should feel very anxious to hear although you did not say anything in your first letter to alarm me about Fanny.  I felt quite uneasy about her after receiving it and thought frequently that there was cause for apprehending danger.  I don’t know that I should have thought so much about it had it not been for the death of a young person here in somewhat

== Page 2

similar circumstances – she was just Fanny’s age and died in an equally sudden manner, she too was sick for a day and then was seized with vomiting and after your mentioning that I could not get her out of my thoughts.  Although I cannot say I was in any way prepared for the sad reality when your second letter came.  Poor Aunt Mary. I feared almost to hear again dreading what might be the effect of such an overwhelming blow as this, we all know her intense affection for her children and although she has been sorely tried before this in the removal of younger ones, former afflictions must have been light in comparison to this.

[Frances Elizabeth “Fanny” Allison was the daughter of Jane’s aunt Mary Ann Fairbanks Allison (1800-1896).  Fanny died 21 Oct 1855 at the age of 24.  My records indicate Fanny died in Bermuda, but I’m not sure word would have gotten back to Halifax so quickly as to be sent to Jane before November 2, 1855.  Jane mentions that Mary Ann was “sorely tried before this”, making reference to the fact that Mary Ann’s children Ellen and Agnes died in 1836 at the ages of 1 and 2 years respectively.  They are on the same tombstone in the Old Burying Ground in Halifax.  Mary and her husband David Allison also lost their son Joseph at age 3 in 1839. ]

== Page 3

Fanny must have been everything to her this summer while dear Aunt Eliza’s loss [“must have been” is crossed out] was so fresh and the want of her society so keenly felt, and now my heart aches to think of such a desolating bereavement as hers.  [words crossed out here] her death under any circumstances would have been an awful hole but it seems so very sad that she was not aware of her danger at least as far as friends could know, for many hope at least she was not unprepared by the many of Him with whom nothing is impossible.  It is indeed a solemn warning to us who are [crossed out word] in health and strength to be also ready seeing we know neither the day nor the hour when death shall come.  I have thought more of Aunt Mary’s

== Page 4

sorrow knowing the intensity of her feelings, but alas there are many to share in it.  Her husband and children so suddenly bereaved, the latter can have at present little sense of their loss but poor Sam [Fanny’s husband, Dr. Samuel Wells] will be utterly unprepared for such dreadful feelings and his friends will deeply sympathize in the grief of all.  May he who has sent the stroke administer consolation also, for earthly friendship can do but little.  Mrs. Cossman was here the evening I received your letter telling of her confinement and she told me thought she had never seen any person look so strangely as Fanny.  She said her face has such an unnatural color and appeared to her to be very much swollen so what she said alarmed me also, but still I hoped

== Page 5 [sideways on page four]

all would be well.  It is so natural to hope for the best.  I have had letters from all at home since, but yours contained the most particular account and I must again thank you dear Mary for your kindness and thoughtfulness in writing for I daresay you did not feel very like doing so at the time.  There was some hair in the envelope was it Fanny’s?  Perhaps you intended saying but closed without [saying].  My poor baby has been quite ill for a whole week and although she is better she had two days she will scarcely let

== Page 6 [Sideways on page 3]

any one look at her and for hours will not let me put her out of my arms.  She is so very cross.  Her teeth have been the cause of it but I hope the worst is over now.  We are all tolerable well, but  Aunt Margaret and myself have been very busy with house cleaning getting up stores and other arrangements necessary at this season.  We shall have more leisure soon, I hope.  It did not matter at all about the chemises, just send them when quite convenient.  I must not write more today but with much love to Martha and all at Dartmouth.

Believe me dear Mary your ever affectionate

Jane E Duff

Letter from James Ritchie – 10 Jun 1868

This charming letter comes to me from my cousin Catherine Duff.  Although it’s only a partial letter, and as a result the closing is missing, there is enough evidence to conclude it was written by James Ritchie of Perth, Scotland to his first cousin Margaret “Peggy” Duff at Braco, Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.

Margaret and her sister Isabella had spent three years in Scotland between 1862 and 1865, and had grown very close with their older cousin James.  He wrote in his diary about bringing them to the seaport for their trip back home from Scotland in 1865.  At the time of this letter, Margaret was 15 years old, her sister Annie Duff (my great-great-grandmother) was 21, and their sister Isabella [mentioned in the letter obliquely] was 14.  James was 46.

This letter is so full of love and dry humor, it very much makes me want to locate more correspondence from James.

Pages 1 & 4

Pages 1 & 4

Pages 2 and 3

Pages 2 and 3

[Click on images to enlarge or download.  Transcription follows.]

Perth, 10 June 1868

My dear Peggy –

You don’t mean to say that you haven’t heard from me since the 18th July 1867. That’s a very alarming statement and must surely arise from a great hallucination on your part my good old woman. I’m afraid your memory is failing, poor dear old philosopher. But as Annie also says I am in the black books at Braco, Lunenburg N.S. [Nova Scotia] – and as the venerable flibbertigibbet [Isabella Duff] has a growl at me too, by the mail last arrived, I am getting rather alarmed – and as I wouldn’t, for the life of me, have three very nice, fascinating blue noses – no, I mean – extremely pleasant

[A “blue nose” either means “a priggish or puritanical person” or “a person from Nova Scotia”.]


young ladies, converted into dangerous foes – I beg very humbly to throw up the sponge [throw in the towel] as the sporting men say – and to cry culpa mea, culpa mea, as another sort of people say, that the F.C. minister of Lunenburg will tell you about if you ask him civilly – and now having got over the preface to my epistle, I hope you are better and quite well again. In your last letter to Aunt Mag. [likely Margaret Duff, sister of Rev. William Duff and aunt to James Ritchie] you say that you had been ill and in bed. But I trust you are quite “straight” again, as you Yankee folks say. Now I wouldn’t adopt Yankeeisms if I was a splendiferous,


steady-going, sensible gal like you. I wouldn’t do it “nohow” I wouldn’t. For example, I wouldn’t say “quite” fine weather now. “Quite” a nice young man, or “quite” a horrid little girl. “Quite” a good “time”, or “quite” a bad “time”. Keep out all the “quites” and try another word for “time”. Then don’t say – so and so is “still home” – when you mean still “at” home. Or I’m going down “to” home, when you mean that you’re simply going home. But that’s all the lesson I can propose giving you today. I hope by the way Kate [likely Isabella Catherine Duff, Margaret’s sister] and you haven’t forgotten the Greek alphabet. But one word more – take more care of your spelling and never send away a letter you write without reading it carefully


over again, to see that the spelling is all right, and to make sure that you haven’t put down a “was” instead of a “were” or a “has” instead of a “have” – and also in order to put in stops and commas where they ought to be. And these little precautions tell Kate to attend to as well. I don’t give you any message of this kind to Annie though. She’s so awfully advanced a young lady that I am half afraid of her now. But we’ll perhaps catch her napping some fine morning too. Just wait a little.

We have had a splendid season here so far as this year has gone. A fine open, blowy, winter with little rain, and less frost or snow – and the weather is now beautiful, and the crops all promise to be

Duff & Forrest Family Photo – c1882

An absolutely priceless photo recovered through some computer wizardry today, courtesy of my cousin Catherine Duff.  The photo was taken at Braco, the Duff Family home in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia about 1882.

[Click to enlarge or download.]

Duff & Forrest Family at Braco, 1882

Duff & Forrest Family at Braco, 1882

Duff & Forrest Family 1882 (detail)

Duff & Forrest Family 1882 (detail)

My 3x great-grandfather Reverend William Duff is in the doorway.  He was 74 years old at the time.

Identified in the front row, left to right, are my great-great-grandfather John Forrest (1842-1920), his wife Annie Prescott Duff (1847-1930), their son George Forrest (1878-1958), his brother Archie Forrest (1875-1946), Rev. Duff’s daughter Maggie Duff (1853-1939), William Forrest (1873-1939) who was also a son of John Forrest and Annie Duff, and two women who are not positively identified.

Annie Fairbanks (1822-1899), who was Rev. Duff’s sister-in-law is identified as being one of the women in the photo.  She moved in with the family when her sister died in 1856 and stayed there until her death.  She would have been 60 in 1882.

I know from two other photos that Maggie Duff and her sister Bella were like two peas in a pod, and I feel like the woman standing next to Rev. Duff looks very much like the woman seated with the hat, so I tend to think that the standing woman is Bella Duff, the younger of the two.

My cousin Catherine and I feel that the older woman is probably Annie Fairbanks, and the woman seated to the left of her might be one of John Forrests sisters, either Helen or Isabella.  Helen would have been 42 and Isabella would have been 50 years old in 1882.  Since the woman doesn’t look much older than my great-great-grandmother Annie Duff (who was 35), I’m guessing it’s more likely Helen.  The photo I have of Helen does bear a strong resemblance to the woman in question.

There is another woman living with the Duff family in the 1881 census (taken almost this same time).  Her name was Emma Gow, a 75 year old widow from Scotland.  There’s some possibility that the older of the two women seated at the right is Emma Gow, but it seems less likely than one of the scenarios above.

Family of Charlotte Nicoll (1766-1846)

Charlotte Nicoll was my 4x great-grandmother and wife of William Duff Sr.  I knew from her gravestone in the Kirkstyle Cemetery in Perthshire, Scotland that she had been born 20 Sept 1766 and had died at Berryhill, the Duff Family Farm, on 15 May 1846.

Gravestone of William Duff, Charlotte Nicoll, & James Duff

Gravestone of William Duff, Charlotte Nicoll, & James Duff

Today, while doing some web searching, I came across a mention of  “Robert Nicoll’s Monument”, which is very near Berryhill (literally just a walk across a field).  The name obviously caught my attention given the nearness to the Duff family property.  You can see the proximity of the monument to Berryhill in this map:

Berryhill & Tullybelton Map

Berryhill & Tullybelton Map

This is a photo of the monument itself:

Robert Nicoll's Monument, Lanarkshire, Scotland

Robert Nicoll’s Monument, Lanarkshire, Scotland

It’s a 50-foot high stone obelisk that’s to honor Robert Nicoll (1814-1837), who was a poet who grew up on the farm called Tulliebelton (also spelled “Tullybelton”), just down the road from Berryhill.  Given his age and name, I thought there was a very good chance that Robert was a nephew or cousin of my grandmother Charlotte Nicoll.  We know Charlotte’s father was named Robert Nicoll and that she had a sister named Margaret who married Robert Duff (her husband’s brother).  This rather lengthy bio of the poet is very good:

There is also an article about the monument itself here.

I decided to do some looking into the Tulliebelton Nicoll family and found some great results.
From what I have found so far, Robert Nicoll and his wife Jean Chalmers at Tulliebelton had the following children at Tulliebelton:

Elizabeth Nicoll (b 20 May 1768)
Helen Nicoll (b 28 Jan 1770)
James Nicoll (b 2 Feb 1772)
Kathrine Nicoll (b 30 Jan 1773)
Jean Nicoll (b 12 Jan 1777)
Margaret Nicoll (b 1782)

and the big discovery was the attached record for my grandmother Charlotte Nicoll, who was born 20 Sept 1766 at Tulliebelton!

Charlotte Nicoll Birth, 1766

Charlotte Nicoll Birth, 1766

It reads:

20 Sept 1766. To Robert Nicol, miln of Tullibelton (sic), a daughter Charlott (sic).

So we now know that the Charlotte Nicoll lived, literally, on the next farm over from Berryhill, and that she was almost certainly related to the poet.  I’m not sure exactly how yet, but it seems likely he was her nephew.  The birth record for Robert is attached (you can see two children for Robert Duff and Margaret Nicoll are listed there also).

Robert Nicoll Birth, 1814

Robert Nicoll Birth, 1814


The poet Robert Nicoll’s parents were Robert Nicoll and Grace Fenwick, also of Tulliebelton.  I’m guessing there was another boy, Robert, born to Robert and Jean above who is the missing link.  The poet’s father seems to have been born about 1774, so he was perhaps born between Katherine and Jean Nicoll listed above.  Robert and Grace had a son named “Charles Duff Nicoll”, so one can see that the two families were close.

This book of Robert’s poetry contains an interesting tidbit of Nicoll family history:

“[The poet] Robert Nicoll was born on the 7th January 1814 in the farm-house of Little Tulliebeltane, in the parish of Auchtergaven, in Perthshire, which lies nearly half-way between Perth and Dunkeld.  His father, Mr. Robert Nicoll, was at that period a farmer in comfortable circumstances for his station and locality; his mother was Grace Fenwick one of the daughters of that venerable Seceder, “Elder John”, of whom Nicoll speaks so frequently and affectionately in his poems.  Robert [the poet] was the seond son in a family of nine children.  His elder brother died in childhood, and Robert thus became the “eldest son.”  Both the families from which [Robert the poet] immediately sprung had been settled for generations in the same neighborhood, and counted a long pedigree of the kind that is still the proudest boast of rural Scotland, decent, honest, God-fearing people.  By the recollection of his mother [Grace], Robert, when nine months old, could speak as infants speak; at eighteen months he knew his letters; and when five years old he could read the New Testament.  His mother had up to this time, had leisure to be the teacher of her intelligent and lively child: but now, woeful reverse was impending over the family.  Mr. Nicoll [the father] had become security to the amount of five or six hudnred pounds, for a connection by marriage, who failed and absconded; and the utter ruin of his own family was the almost immediate consequence.  He gave up his entire property to satisfy the crditors of this individual; he lost even the lease of his farm, and, with his wife and several young children, left the farm-house and became a day laborer on the fields he had lately rented; with nothing to sustain his wife and himself save the consciousness of unblemished and unblamed integrity.  [The poet] Robert Nicoll was thus, from the date of his earliest recollection, the son of a very poor man, the inmate of a lowly home, the eldest of a struggling family.  Field labor was the daily lot of his father, and at certain seasons of the year, of his mother also, as far as was compatible with the care of her young and increasing family; and the children as soon as they were condidered fit for labor, were one by one, set to work.”

Berryhill Estate Document 1815

This interesting document was sent to me by my cousin Noeline who obtained it from Norman Pannell of Christchurch, NZ. in 1988.  It’s some kind of property assessment taken on the Duff Family farm of Berryhill (also spelled “Berriehill”) which was part of the larger estate called “Tullybeagles” in Lanarkshire, Scotland.

In the document “Berry Hill Lodge” is said to comprise 1,456 acres, most of which was pasture land.  The land is described as follows: “The arable land of this farm is in fair good order – The field very poor sheep ?? – much of it is a proper subject for planting.”  The farmhouse is described as “A very good house, slated, two stories high” and the barn is also described as slated.  The stabling builds were “all old huts.”, and the out-offices were described as “Ruinous.  The offices ought to be nearly all renewed using wood from the Hill to the Lodge.  Work could be of great use to the property.”.

The roads at Berry Hill were said to be “Very bad.  The place is hardly accessible.”

The section on proposed alterations recommends: “Add a part of Glachal at south corner of park and the sheep land of Gibeston 66.462 ought to be added and this is proposed because the greater quantity of sheep lands together the better chance there is for the tenant to do well with it.”

[Click on image to enlarge or download.  Transcription follows.]

Berryhill Estate Document 1815

Berryhill Estate Document 1815

Also mentioned on the same document is the land for Charles Duff Sr., which is called “Milton and Roickston”, which seems to have comprised some 165 acres.  This Charles is likely the son of William Sr.  Charles took over BerryHill on his father’s death in 1836.